School protestors are truants, says minister

Local councils must bring in truancy officers to make sure pupils do not take to the streets in protest at school teaching hours, says junior education minister Marja van Bijsterveldt.

Bijsterveldt said officials had the power to fine parents if their children were not at school, and condemned Monday’s disturbances in which 250 pupils were arrested nationwide.
The school walk-outs were in protest at government plans to make sure secondary school pupils attend 1,040 hours of lessons a year. Pupils and teachers say the measure has led to the introduction of ‘fake lessons’ because of the shortage of staff.
Bijsterveldt, who had earlier announced that schools would be free to fill in 40 hours of official lessons in other ways, said now she had made concessions, she ‘expects pupils to behave’. ‘Kicking cars and rioting is not part of that,’ she said.
Officials from both Amsterdam and Rotterdam said they were looking into the possibility of involving truancy officers. In Rotterdam, schools have been warned that there will be ‘consequences’ if there are more disturbances.
Meanwhile, the mayor of Middelburg has apologised for the way police used batons to break up last Friday’s demonstration by school pupils, and said too much violence had been used in some instances.
MPs are due to discuss the school hours situation on Wednesday.

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