“School absence rates fall, data shows”

By Nina Jacobs

| 30 May 2019

School absence rates in England are declining year-on-year, with pupils missing school on average three days a term, new figures show.

The latest data from the Department for Education reveals the overall absence rate for primary, secondary and special schools dropped from 4.4 per cent in the autumn term 2017 to 4.3 per cent for the same period last year.

The report says the decrease happened across all school types and continues a general downward trend identified since 2008.

Figures for authorised absence also dropped from 3.3 per cent to 3.1 per cent while the unauthorised absence rate remained stable (1.2 per cent).

The report says the overall absence rate for four-year-olds - who were not of compulsory school age - had also dropped from 5.1 per cent in the autumn term of 2017 to 4.7 per cent in the autumn term of 2018.

It says the total number of days missed due to absence was 20.8m and the average number of days missed per enrolment was three, of which both figures had remained unchanged from 2017.

The report identifies more than one in 10 pupils were persistently absent during the autumn 2018 term but says the percentage of those children enrolled that were classified as persistent absentees dropped from 11.7 per cent in 2017 to 10.9 per cent the following year.

The DfE said the figures in its report relate to the 2018/19 academic year and only to the autumn term.

Data for the first two terms will be published in October and figures relating to the full 2018/19 academic year will be published in March 2020, it said.

"In recent years, autumn term absence rates have given reasonable indications of trends in the full-year data," the report added.

Special schools were found to have the highest absence rates (9.7 per cent) compared with secondary schools (4.9 per cent) and primary schools (3.7 per cent).

The report points towards higher rates of absence due to illness in special schools as well as missed days due to medical or dental appointments.

"Illness is the most common reason for absence and heavily influences overall absence rates. It is the main driver for the overall decrease over the long term and since autumn 2017," the report concludes.