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Anti-truancy official for Vienna

Horst Tschaikner has been named head of Vienna’s new anti-truancy office.

The secondary modern teacher was asked to work on concepts to lower the number of cases of truancy in the Austrian capital, Viennese education issues chief Susanne Brandsteidl said yesterday (Thurs). Brandsteidl claimed that some students were "coming and going like in a cafe". She praised Tschaikner as a down to earth teacher and stressed that the city’s new anti-truancy ambassador was not "some snobby politician with an official car".

Tschaikner explained yesterday he planned to create a guide for headmasters, teachers and parents to help them in finding the root for kids’ misbehaviour. The Hauptschule academic added that intense analytical efforts would be made to determine the major causes of truancy which is rampant at some schools and many districts of the city.

"Skipping lessons is not a trivial offence," Brandsteidl said. She warned the government from introducing higher penalties for such offences. Brandsteidl claimed that harsher fines would not solve any of the numerous problems of misbehaving children and their families. Viennese teachers informed their superiors about 500 serious offences of educational laws by pupils in 2005. More than 1,100 grave cases of misbehaviour like repetitive truancy occurred between January and September 2011, according to figures provided by Viennese education authorities.

Brandsteidl’s appeal to abstain from jacking up fines for truancy comes shortly after the federal integration secretary claimed such steps were unavoidable. Sebastian Kurz of the conservative People’s Party (ÖVP) said it had to be avoided that so many youngsters were causing serious harm to their future prospects by staying away from classes on a regular basis.

Kurz suggested to raise the maximum fine from 220 to around 1,500 Euros. He said German education institutions were succeeding in their combat against widespread truancy thanks to high penalties. The state secretary underlined that tougher fines could only be one of many aspects of a possible reform of the current anti-truancy measures.

Social Democratic (SPÖ) Labour and Social Affairs Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer dismissed the state secretary’s appeal to increase the maximum fine to 1,500 Euros. Hundstorfer said he could imagine backing plans to raise the sum from the current 220 Euros to twice this amount.

The labour minister said the government coalition should focus on prevention and awareness programmes. He called for support to increase the budget of Austria’s various youth coaching and traineeships programmes to lower the number of Austrian NEETs. The term describes people aged between 16 and 24 who are neither in education, employment or traineeship. There are around 75,000 NEETs in Austria – which has an overall unemployment rate of 4.1 per cent – at the moment.

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