Concerns over absent children in Yorkshire secondary schools

Parents are increasingly prepared to take their children out of school for term time holidays, new figures reveal, as it emerges Yorkshire's secondary schools have the highest rates of unauthorised absence in the country.
Rising numbers of children are seeking help due to exam stress, according to Childline. Picture: PA.Rising numbers of children are seeking help due to exam stress, according to Childline. Picture: PA.
Rising numbers of children are seeking help due to exam stress, according to Childline. Picture: PA.

New figures from the Department for Education, released yesterday, show a rise year on year in the number of children missing school across the country.

While illness accounts for 58 per cent of all absences, there has also been a rising number of parents taking children out of school for holidays to avoid hikes in costs over the busy periods.

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And in Yorkshire, the figures show, the region had the highest rate of unauthorised absences from secondary schools across the whole of the country, sparking concerns from unions who say attendance is in part linked to social deprivation.

“Missing school has a direct impact on children’s education and life chances,” said Ian Stevenson, regional TUC secretary for the Yorkshire and Midlands region. “Clearly, the impact of these children missing school will be at the detriment of their education.

“I don’t think it’s that parents don’t want their children to go to school. It’s that we have parents who are struggling - with employment, with healthcare, and to meet their children’s needs.”

The figures, recording absences in schools in England in the Autumn term, show that 19.6m days were lost with each child missing on average three days a term.

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And, the figures showed, five per cent of pupils missed at least one session due to unauthorised holiday, a small but significant rise on the previous year.

“Term time holidays will be a factor,” said Mr Stevenson. “For families on a low income who want to go on holiday, they simply can’t afford the prices that holiday companies use to exploit demand at peak times.”

The Department for Education has maintained its stance against term time holidays, saying no child should be taken out of school without good reason.

“The evidence shows every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting effect on their life chances,” a spokesman said after the Supreme Court ruling against Isle of White father Jon Platt.

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The Yorkshire figures, for pupils aged five to 15, found the highest rates for unauthorised absence were in Doncaster, Sheffield, Rotherham and Bradford, at 1.7 per cent.

Sheffield and Doncaster also had the highest rates for missed sessions at secondary level, at 2.3 per cent, while Doncaster had the highest rate of children missing school altogether, although the majority of these were permitted.

Damian Allen, director of people for Doncaster Council, said it was disappointing to see a national rise reflected in schools across the borough.

“We are offering advice and support to all schools to ensure they are making appropriate challenge to parents and carers and have engaged in a number of initiatives to improve the current position,” he said. “Regular school attendance is very important for every child and we will continue to promote the importance of this to all parents and carers.”

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Carly Speechley, director of children and families at Sheffield City Council said: “We know that children who spend more time in education have higher attainment and so are working closely with our schools to improve pupils’ attendance.

“Our ambition is that all Sheffield children, young people and families achieve their full potential and attending school every day is an important part in this.”