Press release

Fewer pupils regularly missing class than ever before

Figures for school attendance break records across the board.

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

Children writing

There are fewer pupils persistently missing lessons than ever before, figures published today (15 October 2014) reveal. There are now more pupils regularly attending school since comparable records began in 2006.

Ensuring more pupils regularly attend school is a vital part of the government’s plan for education and good attendance is crucial to ensuring their success both at school and in later life.

The striking figures for the autumn and spring terms of the 2013 to 2014 academic year show that:

  • 176,850 fewer pupils persistently missed school than in 2009 to 2010, from 439,105 to 262,255 - this is the lowest level since comparable records began
  • 10.1 million fewer school days were lost to absence than in 2009 to 2010, from 45.8 million to 35.7 million - the lowest level since comparable records began
  • the overall rate of absence has dropped by more than a quarter since 2009 to 2010, from 6% to 4.4% - again the lowest level since comparable records began
  • the number of pupils missing lessons for holidays has dropped by almost a third since last year, after the government tightened up the rules on term-time holidays. Almost 1 million fewer school days were lost to term-time holidays - from 3.3 million last year to 2.5 million this year.

If a pupil was persistently absent - defined as missing around 15% or more of school time - for their whole school career, then they would have lost around 18 months of lesson time, severely damaging their chance to fulfil their potential.

School Reform Minister Nick Gibb said:

Our plan for education is getting more young people than ever before back in class, helping thousands more to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations.

Missing lessons can be hugely damaging to a pupil’s education - but today’s figures show more pupils than ever before are getting the best preparation for life in modern Britain.

The figures also reveal that teachers can be increasingly confident in the behaviour and commitment of their pupils in lessons. Our plan for school attendance and classroom behaviour is designed to give pupils the best start to life and teachers the best possible environment in which to teach.

In September 2013 the law was changed so that headteachers can grant leave from school in ‘exceptional circumstances’ only. Today’s figures show that this has resulted in hundreds of thousands fewer pupils missing lessons for term-time holidays, helping more pupils than before to do well in school.

The government’s plan for education includes a number of reforms to encourage good behaviour and attendance in school, including:

  • 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 before
  • making clear that teachers can use ‘reasonable force’ to maintain behaviour and extending their searching powers from 2011
  • allowing teachers to impose same-day detentions from 2011

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Published 15 October 2014