With figures showing London has the worst primary truancy rates in England, one Croydon school has launched a campaign to stop the bunkers.

Ejiro Ughwujabo, headteacher at St Mary's RC High School in West Croydon, implemented a hassle' policy last September.

An online system registers each pupil in every lesson. If a child does not turn up to lessons staff in the school's main office are alerted and an automated system telephones the pupil's parents every hour.

The calls - sent to every contact number the school has for the child - continue until a reasonable explanation is given for a pupil's absence.

If parents are unaware of their child's whereabouts police are contacted - a situation that has only arisen once.

Mr Ughwujabo said: "Sometimes children are not in school but their parents think they are. If a child has left home and is not in school, everyone knows I will be able to investigate it."

Since the policy was implemented, truancy levels at the Woburn Road school have been slashed and a pupil's whereabouts are always known.

"We don't have the situation now where children don't come to school. Truancy has stopped and the absences we have are genuine." Mr Ughwujabo added: "We are now able to get quick explanations for absences."

Last month the Croydon Guardian reported how the council is considering fining parents who let their children bunk off school.

The decision came after new Government figures revealed truancy rates for the borough's primary schools were getting worse.

Croydon is one of 22 London boroughs with primary truancy records showing no sign of improvement.

Schools in London fared the worse in the truancy chart, averaging 0.76 per cent, with only eight London boroughs improving on last year.

General secretary of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Steve Sinnott, said that "parental connivance" was a truancy factor as parents were taking children out of school to go on holiday or for shopping trips.