High truancy figures mask increases in pupil attendance

When taken together the numbers for truancy and authorised absence have fallen slightly; it'll be interesting to see how this is reported by tomorrow's papers.

Figures out this morning, and likely to feature in tomorrow’s papers, appear to show that truancy has reached a record high. But the picture may be less damning the headlines would leave you to believe.

The BBC reports this morning that:

“The truancy rate for schools in England has risen slightly – to the highest level ever recorded.

“Statistics for the last academic year (to July 2009), show the rate of unauthorised absence rose by 0.04%. That means that 1.05% of school sessions were missed without permission – up from 1.01%.”

Writing on his Conor’s Commentary blog, Conor Ryan writes:

“Much is made of the comparisons with 1997 when 0.7% of sessions were missed. At the same time, the Government reports that days lost through ‘authorised absence’ are falling rapidly. The two figures are related. When the Government decided to clamp down on term-time holidays and visits to the dentist or on Christmas shopping trips, they created a rod for their own back.

“Schools are reluctant to grant permission for such occasions that they might previously have granted, hence the rise in unauthorised absence.”

Ryan goes onto show that pupils are at primary school for an average of 1.4 days, and at secondary school for an average of 3.4 days, more than they were when Labour took office. Nonetheless, he is careful to caution that, “None of this is to suggest that there is not a real problem with truancy. Clearly far too many pupils are still absent for too long and more work needs to be done.”

Despite the headline, the BBC noted that, when taken together the numbers for truancy and authorised absence had fallen slightly. It will be interesting to see how this is reported by tomorrow’s papers.

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