Almost 400,000 pupils miss at least a month of school

Published on Wednesday, 28 March 2012 15:57
Posted by Scott Buckler

Almost 400,000 persistently absent children missed at least a month of school, figures reveal today

The statistics for the 2010/11 school year also show that children on free school meals, or those with special educational needs, were around three times more likely to be persistently absent.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said persistent absence was a serious problem. Much of the work children miss when they are off school is never made up, leaving them at a considerable disadvantage to their peers.

There is clear evidence of a link between poor attendance at school and low levels of achievement. Figures from 2009/10 show that:

  •     Of pupils who miss more than 50 per cent of school, only three per cent manage to achieve five A* to Cs, including English and maths.

  •     Of pupils who miss between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of school, only 35 per cent manage to achieve five A* to C GCSEs, including English and maths.

  •     Of pupils who miss less than five per cent of school, 73 per cent achieve five A* to Cs, including English and maths.


A child is defined as persistently absent if they miss 15 per cent or more of school time. Previously, children who missed 20 per cent of school were considered persistent absentees. The Government lowered the threshold so schools could step in to tackle absence sooner – before the problem really takes hold.

Schools and local authorities have a range of strategies and sanctions open to them to tackle the problem. Penalty notices can be issued to parents for unauthorised absences. Department for Education figures, also published today, show that 32,641 notices were issued last year but that 13,629 of those went unpaid or were withdrawn.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb welcomed the downward trend in absence but said he remained concerned about the impact of persistent absence on children’s attainment.

He said:

    A hard core of almost 400,000 pupils still missed at least a month of school. We should not underestimate the impact of this on their future prospects.

    The effect that poor attendance at school can have on a child’s education can be permanent and damaging. Children who attend school regularly are four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs, including English and Maths, than those who are persistently absent.

    We have asked Charlie Taylor to carry out a review on attendance and have lowered the persistent absence threshold, so schools tackle the problem earlier. We are determined to tackle absence before it causes long-term disadvantage.

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