Will climate change improve school attendance?

While the furore about the issue of pupils being taken on holiday during term-time was hitting the media the government published the annual data for overall school attendance during the autumn term of 2015 https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/pupil-absence-in-schools-in-england-autumn-term-2015

Whether it was a direct consequence of the mild autumn last year or due to other factors isn’t possible to determine from the published data, but the percentage of days lost dropped during the autumn term of 2015 in both the primary and secondary sectors. Overall, primary schools averaged 3.6% of sessions missed, with secondary schools averaging 4.6% in the autumn of 2015. This compares with 4.1% and 5.5% of sessions missed during the autumn term of 2011, in primary and secondary schools respectively.

In 2011, 74.8% of pupils missed at least one session due to absence, whereas in 2015 the percentage was 72.3%, the lowest recorded during this period. Just over two thirds of pupils had an authorised absence, whereas it was around one in five that had at least one unauthorised absence during the autumn term. There was little change in the percentage of pupils arriving late over the five year period, with fewer than one in 25 not making it on time. With all the pressures on family life, this seems like a great achievement in meeting deadlines which in some cases involve several different schools for the same family.

The number of sessions lost through illness was the lowest recorded during any autumn term during the past five years, even so it amounted to 3,664,030 sessions. This compared with a peak of 4,100,750 sessions lost to illness during the autumn term of 2012. Dental and medical appointments accounted for the second highest percentage of lost sessions. I wonder whether a seven day NHS will help reduce this lost schooling even further as it remains stubbornly high at nearly 19% of absences.

Authorised family holidays have fallen between 2011 and 2015, from 6.4% to just 1.1% of absences, whereas unauthorised holidays have increased from 2.9% to 4.2%. Overall, the number of pupils losing time through holidays dropped from 571,260 in 2011 to 343,625 in 2015, with the largest drop in the number of pupils allowed to be absent for an agreed family holiday.

The timing of certain religious events can affect the figures and the number of pupils with at least one day lost for religious observance increased from 78,000 in 2014 to more than 467,000 in 2015 beating the 427,000 total reached in 2013.

If warm dry weather improves school attendance, then this argues for a longer winter break and a shorter summer holidays. Such a pattern might also save schools money on heating bills, but would certainly put pressure on family holidays if more children were trying to go on holiday over a shorter period of time. Perhaps more cruise ships is one answer, with family cruises during the summer holidays using ships from the southern hemisphere that might otherwise be under-filled during their winter months.

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