Unauthorised absence can have ‘lasting effect’


- Credit: Archant

Hundreds of secondary schoolchildren in North Somerset are missing significant chunks of their education and it could have a ‘lasting effect’ on their future prospects.

New figures show 597 children, or 5.4 per cent, in the state sector aged 11 and over were classed as persistent absentees from school in 2013/14, having missed at least 28 days during the year, through authorised and unauthorised absences.

The figures will make worrying reading, after a recent Government report found pupils missing more than two school weeks every year saw their chances of performing well at GCSE level slashed by up to two thirds.

Unauthorised absences include term-time holidays, visits from relatives and day trips, and can extend to family weddings.

Among primary schoolchildren, the proportion of pupils missing 28 days or more was lower in 2013/14 at 2.2 per cent, but still ranked as the second-highest figure across the whole of the South West.

The same Government research also found children missing half of that time from school every year were a quarter less likely to become high achievers in their year six SATs.

Education minister Nicky Morgan said: “The myth that pulling a child out of school for a holiday is harmless to their education has been busted.

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“Headteachers have been vindicated – missing school can have a lasting effect on a pupil’s life chances.

“This is why we are doing all we can to encourage more pupils back into class by toughening up on term-time holidays and attendance.”

The number of school absences in North Somerset did fall during the 2013/14 academic year by almost 15 per cent, as new stringent penalties introduced at the start of the year gave schools the ability to fine parents up to £120 per child for taking them out of class without permission during term time.

In total, 426 penalty notices were issued across North Somerset during the year.

A council spokesman told the Times: “We work closely with schools, children and families to maximise school attendance to make sure children and young people in North Somerset get the most from the educational opportunities we offer.

“There will be times when the work we do is not effective so we have to resort to fixed penalty notices.

“Whatever the penalties are, we would much rather work with families so we don’t have to go down that route, but there are situations where we are left with no choice.”