December 9 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
There is a higher rate of persistent pupil absence in Suffolk’s schools than in any London borough, we can reveal.
A total of 4,597 pupils were classed as “persistent absentees” at the county’s state-funded primary and secondary schools during the last autumn and spring terms, according to Government figures released yesterday.
It means 5.5% of the county’s students lost 15% or more of their teaching time, equating to 38 or more missed lessons – authorised and unauthorised.
That is a worse ranking than all 33 London boroughs, plus a host of major cities including Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester.
It was also the second worst in the east of England, just 0.2% behind Southend-on-Sea.
In Essex, a total of 8,577 pupils were classed as “persistent absentees” at the county’s state-funded primary and secondary schools during the last autumn and spring terms, figures released by the Department for Education showed yesterday.
It meant 5.1% of the county’s students had an overall absence rate of 15% or more from school, equating to 38 or more missed lessons – authorised and unauthorised – for each youngster.
It was a damning assessment which highlighted a ranking worse than 29 out of 33 London boroughs.
Last night, there were calls for parents and schools in Suffolk - already trying to raise disappointing education standards - to work together to bring down the figures.
The research also found the county had the joint fourth-worst overall absence rate (5.2%) at primary school level out of 151 authorities nationwide.
The figures include absence for all reasons - including illness, truancy and family holidays in term-time.
Lisa Chambers, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, skills and young people, said: “While these figures do show that Suffolk has a higher-than-average rate of pupil absences, the difference between the areas in the study is, in reality, relatively small.
“That said, one missed day of school is one too many when you are working to improve educational attainment.
“We know that absence from school, especially for prolonged periods, can have a negative impact on a child’s attainment and potentially cause them to drop a grade.
“The key to this is getting parents, teachers, head teachers and governors working together to cut the number of missed schools days.
“The Raising the Bar programme has at its core the aim of driving up educational attainment and by cutting absence, we will be able to make a positive impact.”
Suffolk County Council launched its flagship Raising the Bar scheme after the authority was ranked 121st out of 150 local authorities in 2012 for educational attainment at the age of 16.
But the county has made progress, bucking the national trend in August with an impressive set of provisional GCSE results.
The Coalition Government has made a concerted effort to highlight the problems of persistent absenteeism after education secretary Michael Gove raised fears of an “educational underclass” two years ago.
An Essex County Council spokesman said the authority had “streamlined” its “processes” since April 1 and was now “taking swifter action against parents, following meetings in schools, in order to protect children’s education”.
“Parents are responsible for ensuring the regular school attendance of their children, and if they fail in this responsibility they may be issued with a penalty notice for £120 (£60 if paid before 21 days) or prosecuted in the magistrates court,” she added.
“The maximum penalty is £2,500 or a three-month custodial sentence.”
She went on: “School attendance is vital to support young people to achieve their maximum potential.
“We are committed to supporting all Essex schools and academies to improve and maintain excellent school attendance.
“Schools work hard to encourage pupils to attend school regularly, and will address any patterns of irregular attendance.
“They liaise and refer to other agencies when specific support is identified, depending on individual need and circumstance.
“If school absence remains a concern a referral is made to the Education Welfare Service and statutory intervention may occur.”
Under current reforms to improve attendance in schools term-time holiday regulations will be tightened and penalty notice fines will be increased with a shortened deadline.
Charlie Taylor, the Government’s expert adviser on behaviour, concluded in a report ordered by Mr Gove last year that “evidence shows that children with poor attendance are unlikely to succeed academically” and are “more likely not to be in education, employment or training (NEET) when they leave school”.