'23,000 primary school pupils skip school'


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The Independent Online

Thousands of primary school pupils missed lessons without permission each day of the spring term this year, official figures show.

The Department for Education says 0.7% of school sessions were missed by primary age children, up from 0.6% for the same term in 2011 due to "unauthorised absence".

Overall, almost 23,400 youngsters in England's primary schools skipped classes on a typical day during the spring term this year through truancy, family holidays, illness and other reasons, an analysis of the figures suggests.

Across all state primary and secondary schools, 1% of half-days during the spring term were missed due to unauthorised absence, the same as in 2011. This is equivalent to around 61,600 youngsters missing classes without permission on a typical day.

In state secondary schools, the unauthorised absence rate is static, with 1.4% of half-days missed, equivalent to almost 39,500 pupils skipping lessons on a typical day.

The most common reason for absence is illness, followed by family holidays.

Illness accounts for 63% of all absences, with family holidays accounting for 7%.

The Government is "determined to tackle absence before it causes long-term disadvantage", Schools Minister Nick Gibb said.

"Poor attendance at school can have a hugely damaging effect on a child's education. Children who attend school regularly are four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs, including English and Maths, than those who are persistently absent."

The Government is toughening the rules on absence to make it clear that schools should only give permission for term-time holidays in exceptional circumstances, Mr Gibb said.

Ofsted is also now setting specific targets for boosting attendance in schools which have problems with absence.

From this September headteachers will be able to issue a £60 fine, up from a previous maximum of £50, if they believe a parent is allowing their child to miss too much school without a valid reason.

If the parent or carer fails to pay within 28 days, the fine will double to £120, to be paid within 42 days.

The overall absence rate, both authorised and unauthorised combined, for the spring term is 5.3%, down from 5.4% for the same time last year.