Headlines: February 27th, 2008

A letter is being sent to all local authorities calling on them to keep up the pressure against unauthorised absences from school by tackling the causes, ensuring good behaviour and making parents accountable. The letter from the Minister for Young People, Kevin Brennan, is being sent in spite of the fact that new figures show persistent absence is falling and overall absence is at its lowest level ever.

Mr Brennan is issuing a challenge to local authorities and schools to cut persistent absence by at least a third by 2011. The latest statistics on attendance are
the most detailed so far and include information on the reasons for absence to help councils and schools to focus their resources better in combatting the problem. He said the Government was on course to meet its target of reducing absence by 8 per cent compared to 2002/3 figures by this year.

He added, “But working with schools and local authorities we need to do much more.” The figures show that about seven per cent of pupils account for a
third of all absence in secondary schools. Mr. Brennan said that between 2004 and 2007 more that 30,000 penalty notices had been issued to parents because of their children’s high levels of unauthorised absence and over 19,000 parenting contracts had been agreed to
improve attendance.

“Local authorities, schools and parents all have a key role to play in ensuring children attend school, are on time and don’t go on unauthorised term-time holidays. We want to offer all the support we can to vulnerable children, for example, young carers, children with special educational needs and victims of bullying, however there’s no excuse for parents who turn a blind eye or schools that accept weak reasons for absence,” the Minister said.