More school pupils playing truant

 

Rising numbers of pupils are skipping school without permission, official figures showed today.

Statistics published by the Department for Education reveal that the truancy rate rose to 1.1% in 2010/11, up from 1% the year before.

It means that around 62,000 youngsters in primary, secondary and special schools missed sessions without permission on a typical day last year, through truancy, family holidays, illness and other reasons, an analysis of the data suggests.

Today's figures show that primary age pupils missed 0.7% of sessions due to "unauthorised absence" in the 2010/11 school year, the same as the year before.

And secondary school students missed 1.4% of half days, also the same as 2009/10.

The statistics also show that nearly 400,000 youngsters were considered "persistently absent" last year, because they missed at least a month of schooling.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the impact of missing this much time on a pupil's achievement should not be underestimated.

"The effect that poor attendance at school can have on a child's education can be permanent and damaging. 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."

Mr Gibb said that Charlie Taylor, the Government's behaviour tsar, was conducting a review of attendance in schools.

The figures show that authorised absence fell to 4.7% in 2010/11 from 5% the year before.

And the overall absence rate dropped to 5.8% from 6%.

It means that more than a million pupils missed a half day or more of school each week in 2010/11.

Family holidays during term time accounted for 9.5% of absences, a rise from 9.3% the previous year.

Illness remains the main reason for absence, accounting for 58.7% of time missed.

The DfE's data also shows that rising numbers of parents are being issued with fines because their child was failing to attend school.

In total, 32,641 penalty notices were issued in 2010/11, up from 25,657 the year before.

Of these, 7,902 went unpaid.

The statistics come on the same day that a review into last summer's riots cited poor parenting, a sense of hopelessness among young people, no clear path to work, reoffending and a lack of confidence in the police as key reasons behind the violence.

The report, by an independent panel, found up to 15,000 people, most aged under 24, actively took part in the riots, with "countless more bystanders observing".

Jeremy Todd, chief executive of support organisation Family Lives, said: "Truancy is a significant problem for schools, families and children alike.

"Many of the parents Family Lives works with have experienced a breakdown in the parent-child relationship that leaves them unable to enforce boundaries.

"They have tried everything they can think of to persuade, cajole, bribe or force their children to attend school and have nothing left to try.

"Reasons for truancy often include home and parental pressures, which include a lack of parental engagement in their child's education and learning, or a chaotic home environment.

"Schools that take a proactive approach to engage with parents stand a good chance of bringing down truancy levels and by working with parents can help those children who are persistently absent to re-join their peers.

"Greater dialogue needs to be encouraged between parents and schools to combat truancy and its associated risks."

PA

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