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Figures fall for school absences

PUBLISHED: 14:53 29 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:54 30 June 2010

A BIG drop in persistent absence levels is being celebrated after new figures revealed improved attendance across the board.

Norfolk County Council has been working alongside the county's schools to reduce absence levels and statistics published by the Department for Education reveal a drop in authorised, unauthorised, overall and persistent absence in the county's primary and secondary schools.

A BIG drop in persistent absence levels is being celebrated after new figures revealed improved attendance across the board.

Norfolk County Council has been working alongside the county's schools to reduce absence levels and statistics published by the Department for Education reveal a drop in authorised, unauthorised, overall and persistent absence in the county's primary and secondary schools.

Figures for the Autumn term 2009 show the biggest drop in levels of persistent absence, which record children missing 28 or more sessions at school. In primary schools, persistent absence fell by 1 percentage point (from 3.9pc to 2.9pc) and in maintained secondary schools it dropped by 2.3 percentage points from 8.6pc to 6.3pc compared to the previous year.

Meanwhile overall absence fell from 5.39pc to 5.28pc in primary schools (0.11 percentage points) and from 7.66pc to 7.18pc (0.48 percentage points) in secondary schools. Unauthorised absence dropped from 0.5pc to 0.46pc in primary schools and from 1.41pc to 1.34pc in secondary schools.

Nationally, persistent absence in primary schools is at 3.2pc and in secondaries it is 5.7pc, while overall absence is at 5.43pc in primaries and 6.85pc in secondaries.

Norfolk recorded a bigger overall drop than nationally in persistent absence in combined primary and secondary schools, falling from 6.2pc in 2008 to 4.6pc in 2009 (1.6 percentage points). Nationally it dropped from 5.5pc to 4.5pc.

Reducing absence has been a priority for the county council and a range of measures have been put in place to tackle attendance issues.

These include truancy sweeps, support for families, including working with parents via a parenting contract aimed at reminding them of their responsibilities, and a fast track to attendance scheme, giving parents time to improve their child's attendance or face prosecution.

The council has taken 250 prosecutions relating to non-attendance since September 2009 compared to 267 for the whole of the last academic year.

However, the priority is to intervene early to prevent problems before they escalate and schools are tracking pupils closely to see where attendance problems may be developing so that support can be provided to the child and their family.

Alison Thomas, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for children's services, said: “We know that there is a link between regular attendance and achievement and we have been prioritising work to tackle absence, particularly persistent absence, which we know can be an indication that a young person is experiencing problems at school or at home.”

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