The number of schoolchildren regularly missing school has fallen by almost 140,000 over the past 2 years.
Figures from the Department for Education show that in the first two terms of the current academic year 139,750 fewer children missed 15% or more of school compared to two years ago. This is equivalent to missing one-and-a-half years of a whole school career. The actual number of absences was down from 450,330 in the 2010-to-2011 academic year to 310,580 in the academic current year.
For pupils who miss between 10% and 20% of school, only 39% manage to achieve five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths. For pupils who miss less than 5% of school, 73% achieve five A* to Cs including English and maths.
Although there were special factors which could partly account for the drop in absence, plicy initiatives have also played a part. In 2011 the government reduced the definition of ‘persistent absence’ used to hold schools to account from 20% to 15%, in order to encourage schools to address the problem at an earlier stage.
In 2012 fines for truancy were increased from £50 to £60, and from £100 to £120 if not paid within 28 days and from last month the time limit for paying the penalties was reduced from 42 to 28 days.
Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said: “It is vital all children attend as much school as possible. That is why we have increased fines for truancy and encouraged schools to tackle persistent absence at an earlier stage.
We know that poor attendance can have a hugely damaging effect on a child’s education.
Children who attend school regularly are four times more likely to achieve 5 or more good GCSEs than those who are persistently absent.”