Still-rising levels of truancy, reported today by the Independent, are a result of the failure of an education system under political mangement. There are a few key failures at work here.
1) Children haven't learn to read
Poor literacy standards mean that a child will often find the rest of their education nothing but a humiliation. Under a more flexible system the schools would not want to press vainly on trying to teach a child Shakespeare when they can't read the Sun. A decentralised system where schools respond to the priorities of individual parents rather than the constant flow of central government diktats could be more flexible.
2) Teaching to the test
We've noted before that it is becoming very apparent that schools teach what is needed to pass the many public examinations to the exclusion of a broader and more meaningful education. That has to make things less interesting which will feed a desire, on the part of children, to avoid school.
3) Focussing on those who can make the 'C' grade
Teachers face a big incentive to focus on making sure that the central "% Grade A*-C" number looks good for their school. Students playing truant often won't be anywhere near that standard. While good schools will do their best for every student many will accept the reality that they have to meet the political standard and focus on boosting as many students as they can over the line to grade C. That undermines efforts to make combatting truancy a priority.