Thousands of pupils skipped lessons

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The Independent Online

Tens of thousands of pupils skipped lessons without permission each day during the spring term, official figures suggest.

England's schoolchildren missed 1.01% of half days due to "unauthorised absence" during the last spring term, according to new Government statistics.

This is down slightly for the same term in 2010, when the truancy rate stood at 1.12%.

Overall, around 62,000 primary and secondary school pupils missed classes without permission on a typical day during the spring term of this year through truancy, family holidays, illness and other reasons, an analysis of the figures suggests.

Primary school pupils alone skipped 0.63% of half days, the figures show.

While this is down on the same term in 2010, it is still a 10.5% increase on 2007, when the figure stood at 0.57%.

Secondary school pupils missed 1.45% of school sessions this spring due to unauthorised absence, this is an improvement on last year and 2007.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb praised the drop in absence rates, but warned that "absenteeism is still too high".

"We know that children who are absent for substantial parts of their education fall behind their peers and struggle to catch up," he said.

"That is why we have changed the threshold on persistent absence to encourage schools to crack down on those pupils who are persistently skipping school. Over the coming months we will be giving stronger powers to schools to send a clear message to pupils and parents that persistent absence is unacceptable.

"We are also committed to addressing the factors that can lead to children playing truant."

Under the current threshold, a pupil is considered a persistent absentee if they miss 20%, or a fifth, of lessons. Around 184,000 youngsters fall into this bracket, according to recent figures.

But the Department for Education (DfE) has announced it is lowering this benchmark to 15%.

Today's statistics show that the overall absence rate for this spring term stood at 5.42%, down from 5.92% for the same term last year.

The most common reason for pupils missing school is still illness, the figures show.

But many pupils are still missing school due to family holidays.

Family holidays accounted for 0.39% of days missed, and around 29% of these days were not authorised by the school.