YORKSHIRE’S truancy rates remain the highest in the country, despite an increasing number of parents being fined for failing to send their children to school.
Now a Yorkshire MP has called for a Government inquiry into why the problem is so severe.
Emma Hardy, who sits on the Education Select Committee and whose Hull West and Hessle consituency is one of the country’s worst-performing areas for school attendance, said: “These statistics are indeed shocking and we really need to look for the reasons behind the absence and ask why these children are missing school.”
The former teacher said schools were increasingly using so-called ‘off-rolling’, a practice in which pupils are told not to come to school but not formally excluded.
She said this, coupled with an “exclusive focus on exams”, could be contributing to a rise in truancy figures.
She said: “The Government needs to do a proper investigation into the reasons that truancy is so high and how schools can support students to stay in, and enjoy going to, school.”
Fellow Select Committee member, Colne Valley MP Thelma Walker, said persistent absence from school was an issue often found in areas with lower social mobility.
She said this echoed a report published on Monday by the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, which warned that young people in northern communities are being left behind by their southern counterparts as they face a “double whammy of entrenched deprivation and poor schools”.
Mrs Walker said: “The North desperately needs more investment from Government for education, infrastructure and local authorities, and this funding could be used to supply more family outreach workers who could help tackle these persistent absences.”
Local councils can impose fines of £60 on parents who fail to ensure their children’s attendance at school, rising to £120 if not paid within 21 days.
The number of Yorkshire parents fined for failing to send their children to school rose by two per cent to 26,008 in the last academic year.
A spokesman for the National Association of Head Teachers said the "system of fines is clearly too blunt an instrument and in many cases it drives a wedge between schools and families".
He said there were many complex reasons why truancy levels might be stubbornly high in Yorkshire.
He said: “Persistent non-attendance is a real worry because where are those children on those days? Are they being cared for? Are they learning anything? Are they safe? Are they being fed?”
A spokeswoman for the Department for Education, which published the figures, said local authorities had been given the power to fine parents because “the rules on term-time absences are clear”.
At local authority level, Doncaster had England’s third highest rate of persistent absences. Around one in nine primary school pupils and one in five secondary school pupils missed at least a tenth of lessons in the 2016/17 school year.
A spokesman for Doncaster Council said this was “disappointing” but that the authority was working hard to resolve the problem and had recently developed a new attendance strategy.
Barnsley had England’s eighth highest rate, with Hull ninth.
Hull City Council said it was working hard with schools to promote good attendance.