Skellefteå's high school truancy crisis exposed

Many students take the opportunity to sleep in or leave early because it's easy to report an absence. Stock image.
Many students take the opportunity to sleep in or leave early because it's easy to report an absence. Stock image.

Absenteeism among high school students in Skellefteå has increased significantly. One reason is that it has become easier to report sick, suspects the municipality, which is now appealing to parents to talk to their children.

Skellefteå 6 februari 2024 16:05

Some time ago, it became possible for students at Skellefteå high schools, or upper secondary schools, to report their own absences via an e-service. It is possible to report a whole day or just individual lessons. Parents or guardians are not informed.

As a result, absenteeism in grades two and three has increased this past year. Reporting absences is no longer as awkward as in the past, when reporting was done through a dialogue with the tutor.

Birgitta Lindström, deputy head of high school education, says the new system has been in place for a couple of years, but she can't say exactly when. Neither does she have exact figures on absenteeism, but in a letter to all parents at the high school, the increase is described as "significant".

– The system has caused problems. But there may also be other reasons for absenteeism, Lindström says.

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Birgitta Lindström, deputy head of the gymnasium (high school) department in Skellefteå municipality.

In the communication, she emphasises the importance of school attendance. She stresses that help is available if attending school is difficult, and urges parents to talk to their teens.

– Talk to them about the importance of school attendance and participation. Ask them to show you their absenteeism statistics, she says.

A high school student interviewed by Norran says the system is often abused.

– People sometimes report themselves absent if they have a lie-in in the morning, so they can skip the first period. I also know people who mark themselves absent from the last class to go to work instead.

– Some classes are considered boring, and it's made pretty easy to follow along from home, so it becomes easy to avoid what you think is too boring, says the student, who wishes to remain anonymous.

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"Some classes are considered boring, and it's made pretty easy to follow along from home," said one student.

Lindström has been asked why it was necessary to notify parents, considering that high school is voluntary and the participants are of legal age.

– As long as you live at home, your parents are financially responsible for you. And once you have opted to go to high school, attendance is compulsory, not voluntary.

Can't you change the absentee reporting system if it causes such problems?

– We have tried to change the system to meet our needs. But the system has been procured, and according to the system manager, it cannot be changed. So this communication is a way of trying to make the best of the situation, says Lindström.

Absences from high school

Schools should grant leave when students need to be absent for "compelling reasons," i.e., reasons that would entitle an employee to be off work.

Some examples include participation in a national competition, other studies, a driver's test, or short-term matters such as a dental appointment.

Students risk losing their scholarship if they are absent for a long period of time.

Source: Skellefteå kommun.


 
 
 
 
 
 
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