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School absence rates remain at record low despite rise in unauthorised holidays

24/03/2017 Joanna

Overall absence rates in English schools remained at a record low level during the 2015-16 academic year, according to new government data.

Official statistics from the Department for Education (DfE) have shown that the rate of overall absences in 2015-16 has remained the same as the previous year at 4.6, following several years of steady declines since 2006-07, when the overall absence rate was 6.5 per cent.

Persistent absence rates - which monitors the number of students missing ten per cent or more of all possible sessions - have also followed a downward curve since 2010-11, dropping from 16.3 per cent to 10.5 per cent during that time.

Although the total number of days missed across all state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has rose slightly from 54.5 million in 2014-15 to 54.8 million in 2015-16, this increase is consistent with higher pupil enrolment rates.

However, the report also noted a sharp rise in the number of children missing school due to an unauthorised holiday, with the rate increasing from 10.4 per cent in 2014-15 to 11.9 per cent in 2015-16. Just under 802,000 children missed at least one school session, up from around 692,000 the year before.

The government has been making efforts to reduce the number of term-time holidays taken during the last few years, although it suffered a setback last May with a legal ruling that overturned efforts to fine a parent for taking his daughter on a trip in the middle of a term.

A DfE spokesperson said: "Evidence shows that 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.

"That is why we have tightened the rules to put teachers firmly back in charge of their classrooms, and we are supporting schools and local authorities to use their powers to tackle unauthorised absence."

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