Press release

130,000 fewer pupils regularly missing school

New figures show that persistent absence is down by almost a third.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

New figures published today show that persistent absence is down by almost a third, thanks to the government’s reforms to boost attendance and improve classroom discipline.

The figures for the 2012 to 2013 academic year show:

  • 300,895 were persistently absent in 2012 to 2013, down from 433,130 in 2009 to 2010 - a fall of almost a third
  • 130,000 fewer pupils were missing 15% of school - equivalent to missing 18 months of a whole school career
  • 7.7 million fewer school days were lost to overall absence - 49.3 million days in 2012 to 2013 compared to 57 million days in 2009 to 2010
  • overall absence is down from 6% of sessions in 2009 to 2010 to 5.2% of sessions in 2012 to 2013

The evidence shows absence from school has a significant negative effect on attainment. Of pupils who miss between 10% and 20% of school, only 39% achieve at least 5 A* to C GCSEs including English and maths. This compares to 73% of pupils who miss less than 5% of school.

The government has introduced a package of measures to help schools ensure more children attend class, and to give heads and teachers greater powers to tackle bad behaviour. These include:

  • encouraging schools to tackle the problem of persistent absence earlier. The government reduced the threshold by which absence is defined as persistent from 20% to 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

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

There is no excuse for skipping school. We have taken action to reduce absence by increasing fines and encouraging schools to address the problem earlier.

Today’s figures show we are making progress, with 130,000 fewer pupils regularly missing school under this government.

Alongside our measures to give teachers powers to search pupils and impose same-day detentions, this demonstrates our determination to get tough on bad behaviour.

Separate figures also published today show a record number of truancy fines were issued in 2012 to 2013. The figures show:

  • 52,370 penalty notices were issued in 2012 to 2013, up from 41,224 the previous year
  • 30,746 penalty notices were paid within the given timeframe, up from 24,269 the previous year

Notes to editors

  1. View the statistics for pupil absence in schools in England.
  2. View the 2012 to 2013 figures for parental responsibility measures for school attendance and behaviour.
  3. The figures on absence relate to the first 5 half terms of each academic year. This is the usual means of measuring absence as figures for the sixth half term are often distorted by young people taking time out of school in the period after public examinations in order to undertake activities such as work experience.
  4. Persistent absence is defined as missing at least 15% of school time. If a child missed 15% of their whole school career, that would mean 18 months of lost time in the classroom.
  5. Today’s statistics relate to the period before the law was changed in September 2013 so that schools cannot grant a leave of absence during term time, including for holidays, unless in exceptional circumstances.
  6. About a tenth of recorded absence (11.4%) is accounted for by term-time holidays.
  7. This government is giving all schools the autonomy to set their own term dates. The government wants to see more parents asking schools to consider changes to term and holiday dates that will work for pupils and their families.

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Published 25 March 2014