Truancy rate reaches record level

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The Independent Online

Record numbers of pupils skipped lessons last autumn, official figures show.

The truancy rate rose to 1.04% for the autumn term 2010, an 11.8% increase from 0.93% for the same term in 2009.

The hike has been fuelled by rising numbers of primary school pupils missing school without permission.

The statistics, published by the Department for Education, show that primary school pupils missed 0.75% of half days without permission last autumn, the equivalent to around 24,700 children on a typical day. This has risen from 0.62% in autumn term 2009, and from 0.48% in the same term of 2006.

More secondary school pupils also skipped lessons, with the truancy rate rising to 1.37% (the equivalent to around 39,000 youngsters) from 1.28% in 2009. The unauthorised absence rate in secondaries is now the same as it was five years ago.

Overall, around 64,000 children were skipping school without permission on an average day in the last autumn term.

The total unauthorised absence rate for both primary and secondary schools has increased by 15.5% in the last five years. In 2006, it stood at 0.90%.

The figures show that the authorised absence rate fell to 5.07% from 5.2% for the same term in 2009.

Some 26,750 pupils were classed as "persistent absentees", missing more than a fifth of half days.

And many families are still taking holidays during term time - this was the second most common reason for absence. Around a third (30%) of days missed due to holiday were not authorised by the child's school, the figures show.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "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.

"Truancy is often linked to poor literacy skills - that's why we are focusing on improving reading with synthetic phonics.

"Our Education Bill puts teachers back in control of the classroom so pupils can be taught without disruption and teachers have more power to tackle truancy."