Each year the DfE published data about school attendance and absences for terms 1 & 2 of the school year. The information on 2017/18 appeared yesterday and can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/pupil-absence-in-schools-in-england-autumn-term-2017-and-spring-term-2018 Sad to say, the data shows a negative change, with most indicators worse than in the previous year. However, levels of attendance are still better than a decade ago.
The DfE note in the text of the Report that the rate of authorised absence has increased from 3.4 per cent to 3.5 per cent in autumn/spring 2017/18. This is due to the percentage of possible sessions missed due to illness increasing since last year from 2.7 to 2.8 per cent, and “other” authorised absence has also increased. Illness remains the most common reason for absence, accounting for 60.0 per cent of all absences. The unauthorised absence rate has also increased across primary and secondary schools since last year, from 1.1 per cent in autumn/spring 2016/17 to 1.2 per cent in autumn/spring 2017/18. This is due to increased levels of unauthorised family holiday and “other” unauthorised absence.
I wonder whether the Beast from the East and other bad weather over the winter may have contributed to the upward tick in the numbers last year. I suspect that many schools will have declared ‘snow days’ in 2017/18 compared to recent years.
However, it was disappointing to see increases in the absence rates for those that are rated as persistent absentees. As the DfE noted:
The percentage of enrolments in state-funded primary and state-funded secondary schools that were classified as persistent absentees in autumn/spring 2017/18 was 11.3 per cent. This is up from the equivalent figure of 10.4 per cent in autumn/spring 2016/17. Secondary schools have the higher rate of persistent absence, 13.6 per cent of enrolments, compared to 9.6 per cent of enrolments in primary schools. The rate of persistent absence has increased in both since last year, when the rate was 12.8 per cent in secondary schools and 8.7 per cent in primary schools.
This is a group where the lack of attendance can seriously affect their educational attainments.
As ever, pupils with disadvantages, as measured by Free School Meals, often have higher absence rates than those pupils not on Free School Meals. There is a wide range of attendance outcomes by ethnic grouping with the highest overall absence rates being for Traveller of Irish Heritage and Gypsy/ Roma pupils at 17.6 per cent and 12.3 per cent respectively. Overall absence rates for pupils of a Chinese and Black African ethnicity were substantially lower than the national average of 4.7 per cent at 2.5 per cent and 2.8 per cent respectively. As the DfE note, a similar pattern is seen in persistent absence rates; Traveller of Irish heritage pupils had the highest rate at 60.7 per cent and Chinese pupils had the lowest rate at 3.7 per cent.
Given the complaints about difficulties obtaining appointments with GPs and a lack of dentists in some part of the country, it is interesting to see that medical/dental appointments were at their lowest recorded percentage of missing session over the past five years.
Overall, a slightly disappointing year, but not one to set alarm bells ringing nationally, even if some governing bodies will have to be asking searching questions about the trend sin their schools.