Truancy on the increase in secondary schools

Last updated at 10:47 25 October 2007

Truancy in English schools appears to be on the increase again, according to new figures released today.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families found 204,810 pupils missed at least one day of secondary school every week through truancy.

On average secondary school pupils skipped 1.46 per cent of school sessions over the course of the autumn term last year and the spring term this year.

This was an increase from 1.41 per cent of sessions missed through truancy over the same period during the previous school year.

Overall absence - including time off sick - was down for secondary schools on the previous year.

But the rate for unauthorised absence, which is the key figure used to measure truancy, rose again.

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Teenage truants

The Government published figures showing the numbers of "persistent absentees" in schools - pupils who miss at least 20 per cent of their registration sessions, which is equivalent to one day a week or more.

In state primary schools, there were 73,940 persistent absentees, but in secondary schools the figure soared to nearly three times this number.

In addition to the secondary school figure of 204,810. there were another 4,020 persistent absentees in the Government's flagship privately-sponsored academies. This was the equivalent of more than one in 10 pupils.

On average, these serial truants skipped more than a third of their lessons (34 per cent), the figures showed.

This was five times the rate of unauthorised absence for all pupils.

Children's minister Kevin Brennan stressed that the key figure for the Government was overall absence, not just unauthorised absence.

"Overall absence is the key measure for us and we're pleased these figures show it continues to fall," he said.

"After all, whether pupils have an absence note from parents or not, they're still missing school and in danger of slipping behind.

"We've asked schools to get tougher on weak excuses for absence, which is why more absence is recorded as being unauthorised. This shows our hard-line approach is working to cut overall absence.

"Today's figures show that 75,000 more pupils were in school each day on average during the two terms compared to the annual average a decade ago, which shows our policies are working well."

The figure for overall absence in state secondary schools, fell to 7.76 per cent of school sessions being missed, down from 8.16 per cent the previous year.

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