Welsh primary school teachers have seen a marked decline in absenteeism among their pupils over recent years, new official figures have illustrated.
Just 6.2 per cent of half-day sessions were missed in Wales' primary schools as a result of authorised and unauthorised absence over 2011/12, according to statistics published by the Welsh government.
This was 0.5 percentage points lower than recorded in the previous academic year, while the 0.7 per cent of half-day sessions missed through unauthorised absences in 2011/12 was also slightly down on the figure for 2010/11.
Furthermore, the share of Welsh school pupils who were absent for 20.5 days or more decreased from 16.7 per cent in 2010/11 to 14.3 per cent, whereas the percentage of pupils who were ever-present increased to 3.6 per cent.
Attendance is therefore significantly improved from the low point experienced in 2005/06, when schoolchildren missed 7.5 per cent of all half-day sessions.
Wales' education minister Leighton Andrews remarked: "At both primary and secondary [school level] we have seen absenteeism fall, but we recognise that there is still work to do.
"We will continue to work with schools, local authorities and consortia to build on this success."
Illness accounted for 51.7 per cent of all absences at maintained schools in 2011/12, while 19.3 per cent were for agreed family holidays and 10.2 per cent for dental and medical appointments.
Ceredigon had the lowest rate of absenteeism of any Welsh local authority area, with just 5.1 per cent of half-day sessions being missed, followed by Monmouthshire on 5.3 per cent.
By contrast, absenteeism was at its highest in Methyr Tydfill, where 7.1 per cent of half day sessions were missed, just ahead of Neath Port Talbot on seven per cent.
The National Union of Teachers' Wales policy officer Owen Hathaway welcomed these figures and asserted that cooperation with parents was the key to tackling truancy.
He therefore warned against the Welsh government's proposals to fine parents for pupils missing school without authorisation, arguing that this could detrimentally affect attendance by damaging parents' relations with schools.
Posted by Alan Douglas