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Persistent absences show decline

21/10/2013 Kelly
Persistent absenteeism is declining in England's schools, new official figures show, though primary and secondary teachers recorded more absences overall last year.

In 2011, the government reduced the definition of persistent absence from 20 per cent to 15 per cent, in order to encourage schools to address the problem at an earlier stage.

Last year, it also raised parent fines for truancy from £50 to £60, while the time limit for paying these penalties - before they are raised to a £120 fine - was reduced last month from 42 to 28 days.

New Department for Education figures now suggest these steps have had some positive impact, with the number of pupils persistently absent falling from 450,330 during the first two terms of the 2010-11 academic year to 310,580 during the equivalent period of 2012-13.

Furthermore, the number of pupils who would have been deemed persistently absent under the old measure has also fallen, from 199,370 in 2010-2011 to 133,830 in the last academic year.

Education minister Liz Truss commented: "It is vital all children attend as much school as possible."

She explained: "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."

However, the department's figures also indicate a rise in the school overall absence rate, from five per cent for the first two terms of 2011-12 to 5.3 per cent in 2012-13, although this was still significantly below the 6.8 per cent rate seen in 2008-09.

The overall absence rate for primary schools rose from 4.4 per cent in 2011-12 to 4.8 per cent in 2012-13, while the overall absence rate for secondary schools crept up from 5.7 per cent to 5.8 per cent over the same period.

Poorer pupils are generally more likely to miss lessons, with children eligible for and claiming free school meals exhibiting an absence of rate of 7.5 per cent in 2012-13, while 10.6 per cent of these pupils were persistent absentees.

Posted by Alan DouglasADNFCR-2164-ID-801651573-ADNFCR
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