Press release: Number of pupils regularly missing school falls to lowest level

Fewer pupils are persistently missing school than ever before – and the number of pupils in this category has almost halved since 2010, new figures published today (26 March 2015) reveal.

The fall in young people missing classes has come after teachers were given new powers to tackle absenteeism, as part of the government’s plan for education.

Figures show the number of pupils regularly missing school in 2013 to 2014, classed as persistent absentees, is down nearly 200,000 over the last 5 years – the lowest level since comparable records began.

The number of persistent absentees has dropped every year since 2009 to 2010 – and has fallen by 46%, from 433,130, over the period.

The statistics released today follow recent research that shows even short gaps in a child’s school attendance can reduce their chances of achieving good qualifications by as much as a quarter.

Today’s figures also reveal:

  • the number of school days missed due to absence has fallen by a quarter since 2009 to 2010 when 57.0 million days were lost
  • the number of days missed due to family holidays fell by 1.4 million last year – and has dropped by 2.3 million days since 2009 to 2010
  • pupils missed an average of 7.9 days over the full 2013 to 2014 academic year – down from 9.3 days the year before
  • every single local authority saw a fall in their overall absence rates since the previous year
  • Blackpool saw the biggest drop in the rate of persistent absence – with a 42% year-on-year fall. 4.3% of pupils regularly miss school in the area
  • Newham had one of the lowest absence rates in the country despite high levels of deprivation, with an overall absence rate of 4%. The persistent absence rate also stands at just 2.6%

A pupil is classified as ‘persistently absent’ if they miss around 15% of school – which equates to around 18 months of lesson time over their whole school career.

School Reform Minister Nick Gibb said:

We know that missing school can be hugely detrimental to a pupil’s life chances – but we now have around 200,000 fewer young people regularly missing lessons than 5 years ago.

Every single lost day counts – which is why as part of our plan for education we have put teachers back in charge so they can clamp down on classroom absence.

Fewer school days are being lost than ever before thanks to our reforms – giving children the best possible chance to succeed.

Research published last month showed just how important school attendance is.

Nearly half of pupils – 44% – with no absence at key stage 4 achieve the English Baccalaureate, which includes English, maths, science, history or geography and a language.

But just 31.7% of pupils who miss 14 days of classes over their 2-year GCSE courses achieve the same level – and that fell to 16.4% for those who miss up to 28 days.

The government has made a range of reforms to encourage good attendance from their pupils. Measures introduced since 2010 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 before
  • from September 2015, the persistent absence threshold will be reduced further from 15% to 10%
  • making it clear that headteachers should authorise a leave of absence only in exceptional circumstances rather than as a matter of routine
  • 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

Notes to editors

  1. Full academic year figures are available for 2012 to 2013 and 2013 to 2014.
  2. Comparisons of any figures to years prior to 2012 to 2013 are based on data for the first 5 half terms – and exclude the final half term of the academic year.
  3. Pupil absence is one factor that may affect achievement; other factors that may also impact on achievement include background characteristics like FSM status.

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