Thousands of persistently absent pupils in Northumberland

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  • But county figures better than nationally
  • New data is encouraging for Northumberland schools, says councillor

More than 2,500 children were persistently absent from Northumberland’s secondary schools last year, each missing at least 19 days of teaching, figures from the Department for Education show.

The numbers reveal that 12% of state secondary pupils in the area, 2,595 children, missed at least 10% of their allotted teaching time in the 2016/17 academic year. State secondary schools are required to provide a minimum of 190 days of teaching yearly.

On average, secondary school pupils missed out on at least 10 days of education during 2016/17. In total, Northumberland’s secondary schools lost 209,000 days of teaching over the academic year.

School officials authorised 75% of the time that pupils were absent from secondary schools, most commonly for illness or medical appointments. The remainder was unauthorised, and includes periods of truancy and unauthorised family holidays.

The government defines children as persistently absent if they miss 10% of their classes.

In Northumberland’s primary schools, 1,116 children – 7% of all pupils – were regularly absent in 2016/17.

Across England, 14% of students in state secondary schools and 8% in primary were persistently absent.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Children only get one chance at an education and evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs. The rules on term-time absences are clear and we have put schools back in control by supporting them – and local authorities – to use their powers to deal with unauthorised absence.”

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.

A little over half of absent time across all state schools in the country was attributed to illness last year, 8% to unauthorised family holiday and double that to other unauthorised circumstances, including truancy. 49% of pupils had five or fewer days’ absence.

Coun Wayne Daley, cabinet member for children’s services at Northumberland County Council, said: “Although we acknowledge that overall absence and persistent absence can always improve and we are committed to driving it down, the newly published data is encouraging for Northumberland schools.

“In primary schools, levels of overall absence are less than the national and North East averages which stand at 8.3% and 8.8% respectively.

“In secondary schools overall absence of 4.9% comfortably out-performs the national and North East averages of 5.4% and 5.6%. The Northumberland figure for persistent absence is 7.5% compared to the national average of 13.5% and 14.7%, making us the top performing North East local authority.

“Special schools are still a concern, although there is evidence that interventions during the year have had a positive impact. Overall absence has reduced to 8.8% (national 9.7% and North East 9.4%), and persistent absence is much better than North East and national averages but has stayed constant at 25%.

“Performance for 2016-17 is either consistent with or better than Northumberland’s performance last year.”

Source data: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/pupil-absence-in-schools-in-england-2016