Truancy rates for region still country’s worst

YORKSHIRE schools have the country’s highest level of lessons being missed through unauthorised absence and the most pupils who regularly miss schools, the latest figures reveal.

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Department for Education (DfE) data for the first two terms of the last academic year has again showed that the region has the worst attendance records in the country as a whole.

However an education bosses in one city with Yorkshire’s highest levels of unauthorised absence said this actually showed that head teachers were taking a tough line by not approving parents to pull their children out of school during term time.

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More than one in 100 lessons in Yorkshire were missed by primary and secondary pupils through absences that had not been approved by head teachers during the autumn of 2012 and spring of last year.

There were also more than 35,000 pupils who were persistently absent from school – missing 15 per cent or more of their lessons.

Ministers warn that these youngsters are four times less likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs than those who are regularly in school.

The latest figures come as the Government has toughened up the guidance to schools and councils on allowing pupil absence.

In the past heads had the discretion to give parents up to 10 days of absence during term time.

In August, however, the DfE said that schools should only give permission for absence during school in “exceptional circumstances.”

Last year the DfE also increased the amount parents could be fined for truancy from £50 to £60 and from £100 to £120 if the fine was not paid within 28 days.

The figures published yesterday show that 1.2 per cent of half day sessions – which is how absence is measured – in Yorkshire’s primary and secondary schools were missed by pupils without permission.

This is higher than the national average of one per cent and more than any other region in England. There were 35,150 children in Yorkshire who were classed as persistently absent. This represent 5.4 per cent of the region’s pupils – higher than any other in the country.

Hull and Bradford had the highest level of unauthorised absence in the region with 1.7 per cent of half day sessions being missed.

Barnsley had Yorkshire’s highest level of persistent absentees at 6.6 per cent – 1,806 pupils in total.

However the number of half day sessions through overall absence – both authorised and in Yorkshire – was in line with several other regions at 5.4 per cent.

Hull City Council’s lead officer for behaviour and attendance Sue Yardley defended the areas schools, saying the figures showed that they were already taking a tough stance.

She said: “We have made great progress in Hull and have performed a lot better than some our statistical neighbours. The number of persistent absentees in Hull has come down a long way.

“It is important to remember the difference between truancy and absence. An authority with a high unauthorised absence does not necessarily have more absences overall. We have the joint highest unauthorised absence in Yorkshire with Bradford but there are other authorities with higher overall absence.

“The unauthorised absences shows our head teachers are already taking a very tough line with parents who want to take their child out of school during term time.”

Hull’s overall absence figures was 5.7 per cent of half day sessions being missed. Both Barnsley and Rotherham had higher overall absences but lower unauthorised absence than Hull.

Authorised absence will include both holidays in term time which a school has approved and pupils’ being too unwell to attend.

Barnsley Council said it made information available to parents about the importance of their child’s attendance in school and warned that they faced fines if they took pupils out of school without permission.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said: “It is vital all children attend as much school as possible. That is why we have increased fines for truancy and encouraged schools to tackle persistent absence at an earlier stage. We know that poor attendance 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 than those who are persistently absent.”