EXPERT advisers are being brought into help to stamp out truancy at four Bolton secondary schools.

George Tomlinson, Mount St Joseph, Harper Green and Westhoughton secondary schools will take part in a pilot project which could see attendance levels rising over the next two years.

The four schools, which do not have severe truancy problems, were chosen as they are not in what are traditionally regarded as deprived areas of the town and are often overlooked when Government cash is being handed out.

An education social work assistant is being appointed at each of the schools and headteachers will be able to work with them to combat whatever truancy problems they feel are most pressing.

The assistants could spend time at school with specific pupils or visit parents at home.

If the scheme works and attendance records improve by July, 2004, the Bolton education authority will be given more money by the Government to fight truancy.

In last year's school league tables, Mount St Joseph notched-up the least number of half-days lost due to unauthorised absence out of the four schools.

The Catholic school scored 0.7 per cent which is exactly the same as the national average, George Tomlinson's record was 1.8 per cent, Harper Green's number was 0.8 per cent and Westhoughton had one per cent.

At Harper Green School in Farnworth, plans are being discussed to work with lower school pupils who regularly have odd days off.

Assistant head, Christine Halliwell, said: "The initiative cannot fail to raise attendance levels and is welcomed by the schools involved."

Head of George Tomlinson School, Tony Buckley, said: "This is potentially one of the most exciting developments for us in years.

"We'll be making the most of the new member of staff for home visits and even if we manage to change the behaviour of just six children, it would make a huge difference to our overall figures."

Head of Westhoughton High School, Brendan Loughran, said: "We're pleased to be part of this initiative."

The £80,000 set aside for the project has come from the Government funds.