Truancy rate in region’s schools worst in nation

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YORKSHIRE secondary schools had the highest truancy rate in the country in the last Autumn term, new figures have revealed.

Nationally around 3.7 million school days were missed last autumn as pupils skipped lessons without permission, according to the Department for Education (DfE).

On a typical day in autumn 2011, around 55,600 youngsters missed class through truancy across the country, an analysis of Government statistics has shown.

About 48,000 children missed a month or more of lessons, making them “persistent absentees”.

The Government classes pupils as persistent absentees if they miss a sixth or more of their lessons.

One per cent of pupils in Yorkshire are already classed as persistent absentees for the entire year through lessons they have missed in a single term. This is higher than any other region in England.

The DfE’s figures published yesterday measure truancy through the number of half-days missed by pupils without the school’s permission. In Yorkshire 1.5 per cent of half days were missed in secondary school – the highest rate of any region in England.

Across all schools 1.1 per cent of sessions were missed in Yorkshire – the joint highest in England along with inner London. Nationally the figure was 0.9 per cent.

The main reasons for unauthorised absence are truancy or parents taking their children out of school during term time for holidays or overseas visits without the school’s permission.

The overall absence rate from Yorkshire schools was five per cent of half-days. This was the second highest regional figure in the country behind the North East.

This figure includes illness and authorised absence from schools along with lessons missed through unauthorised absence.

Nationally pupils missed 19.5 million school days as the overall absence rate fell from 6.1 per cent in autumn 2010 to 4.7 per cent for the same term last year, the statistics show.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said a child’s academic achievement “suffers permanently” when they miss a substantial amount of term. He added: “Today’s figures show a welcome fall in absence due to lower levels of illness last year and a fall in the number of children taking time off to go on holiday.

“Such absence is still a problem but it is clear that more head teachers are refusing simply to wave through parents’ requests to take their children out of school for term time holidays.

“And increasingly parents understand the damage that can be caused to a child’s education from missing even a day or two of school.”

Illness is still the most common reason for pupils taking time off, accounting for 58.5 per cent of half days missed.

But there has been a drop in absence for this reason. In autumn 2010 around 15.2 million days were missed through sickness but for the same term last year it was 11.4 million days, according to the DfE.

The DfE added that figures from the Health Protection Agency show there were lower levels of flu-like illnesses last winter compared with previous years.

The figures also show that family holidays are still the second most common reason for pupils taking time off, accounting for 11.3 per cent of absence overall. In total, 2.2 million days were missed last autumn through holidays, compared to 2.5 million in autumn 2010.

Charlie Taylor, the Government’s behaviour tsar, has called for a crackdown on term time holidays, warning that youngsters who regularly have time off can end up missing a year of schooling by the time they reach 16.