Suffolk: Concern as truancy figures reveal nearly 5,000 pupils are repeatedly absent

Suffolk schools are lagging behind

Suffolk schools are lagging behind - Credit: Archant � 2004

THE number of persistently absent pupils in Suffolk has dropped in the last year – but nearly 4,800 are still missing lessons on a regular basis.

New government figures show that in the 2011/12 academic year 4,788 children repeatedly took time off school, both authorised and unauthorised, which was down by more than 400 from the previous period.

The area with the highest number of persistent absentees was again Ipswich – which has the largest student body – with 1,260 out of 17,067 children failing to attend school frequently enough.

The figures equate to 7.4% of all pupils in the town being persistently absent – a rise from 7% the previous year.

In total, 5.7% of Suffolk’s 84,261 school-age youngsters, including 1,423 primary school pupils, failed to attend school on a consistent basis last year.

Graham Newman, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member responsible for education and young people, said that in the long term, missing school on a regular basis could seriously affect a child’s education.

He said: “Sometimes students are absent from school for entirely legitimate reasons. However, it’s when the absences are illegitimate that something needs to be done.

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“Long-term, missing school can seriously affect a child’s education. Studies have shown that continual absence can have a negative impact on a child’s attainment, potentially causing them to drop a grade at GCSE level.

“We encourage schools to challenge parents over unexplained periods of absence and where necessary, work with them to get the child back into the classroom as soon as possible.”

Across the country almost 60,000 fewer children were persistently absent from school last year, the Department for Education said.

Last year, 333,850 students were persistently absent from school – down from 392,305 in 2010/11.

The decline follows the Government’s decision to lower the persistent absence threshold from 20% of school missed to 15% of school missed so that heads can step in earlier to tackle problems.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Too many children are still missing too many lessons.”