Department for Education
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Absence falls sharply in autumn term

Figures suggest 216,000 fewer children regularly missing class compared to 2010. 

New figures show pupil absence during the autumn term is at its lowest level for at least 8 years with a sharp drop in children regularly missing school.

Today’s figures compare the autumn term of 2013 with the same period for previous years back to 2006, when records began.

They show that absence from school has plummeted as the government’s policies to deal with absence have started to take effect. The figures show:

  • the overall absence rate in the autumn term fell from 5.2% in 2012 to 4.3% in 2013. The overall absence rate was stable at around 6% between 2006 and 2010 but has since fallen significantly
  • the number of school days lost to absence in the autumn term fell by 4.5 million over the last year. Between 2006 and 2010, the number of days lost remained little changed at around 26 million, but since then it has fallen to 18.2 million
  • the number of pupils who missed around 15% of school in the autumn term fell by 118,000 in one year. Missing 15% of school is the government’s definition of ‘persistent absence’ and is equivalent to missing 18 months of a whole school career. The number of pupils on course to miss at least 15% of school over the whole year has fallen by 44% since 2010 - from 494,000 to 278,000

The government has introduced a range of reforms to help schools boost attendance and improve behaviour, including:

  • encouraging schools to tackle the problem of persistent absence earlier. The government reduced the threshold by which absence is defined as ‘persistent’ from around 20% to around 15% from October 2011. This means schools are held to a higher standard in performance tables than previously
  • increasing fines for truancy from £50 to £60, and from £100 to £120 if not paid within 28 days from September 2012, and cutting the time for paying the penalties from 42 to 28 days from September 2013
  • making clear that teachers can use “reasonable force” to maintain behaviour, extending searching powers and allowing teachers to impose same-day detentions from 2011

Statistics show that children who attend school regularly are far more likely to do well in their exams. Of pupils who miss between 10 and 20% of school, only 39% achieve at least 5 A* to C GCSEs, including English and maths. But this rises to 73% for pupils who miss less than 5% of school.

Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said:

Parents want to know that schools are tough on bad behaviour and that includes cracking down on absence.

By increasing fines and encouraging schools to address the problem earlier, huge progress is being made. These figures suggest the number of children on course to be persistently absent has fallen by 44% since 2010.

There is still more to do and we are determined to further help schools reduce absence and improve behaviour.

Pupil absence since 2006

State-funded primary and secondary schools

  Autumn 2006 Autumn 2007 Autumn 2008 Autumn 2009 Autumn 2010 Autumn 2011 Autumn 2012 Autumn 2013
Overall absence 5.9 6.3 6.4 6.1 6.1 4.7 5.2 4.3
School days missed (millions) to overall absence 26.0 27.7 28.0 25.9 25.4 19.5 22.6 18.2
Number of pupil enrolments who have missed 22 or more sessions 574,040 608,455 611,475 514,845 494,490 328,195 396,450 278,305
Percentage of pupil enrolments who have missed 22 or more sessions 9.0 9.7 9.9 8.3 8.0 5.3 6.4 4.6

Source: school census

Notes to editors

See the statistics.


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