SKIVING hotspots in Barnsley have been targeted by a council and police patrol to try and cut down on unauthorised school absences.

Barnsley Interchange, Cheapside shopping precinct, Mandela Gardens and the Alhambra were visited by the patrol during a school day earlier this month.

The aim was to stop and challenge parents with school-age children, as well as children without an adult, to raise awareness of the importance of school attendance.

In total, 20 pupils were stopped and challenged over their reasons for not being in school.

Twelve were primary age and eight were secondary age.

Six of the secondary pupils were unaccompanied.

The reasons for absence given by parents, or unaccompanied children, varied, but either illness or medical appointments were the most common.

Coun Tim Cheetham, Cabinet spokesperson for People (Achieving Potential), said: “Where parents claimed their children were not fit for school, discussions took place about the appropriateness of the child being out of the home when unwell.

“All relevant schools were informed by the patrol officers that the parent and child had been stopped so the school could make a decision whether to authorise the child’s absence, or record it as unauthorised. In addition, the school’s education welfare officer was informed so that follow-up action could take place as required.

"All the pupils and parents challenged were given printed information to explain the reason for the sweep and, where the absence was for medical reasons, advised to return to school as soon as the appointment was completed."