Fines for parents: not main story on absences

Yesterday, both politicians and the media were quick to latch onto the significant increase in the number of parents being fined for taking their offspring out of school during term-time to go on holiday in the data about absences published by the DfE.

Now, I won’t argue that this makes for good headlines, and is an interesting issue to discuss, and I will say more at a later point in this blog, if space allows. However, I don’t think it is the main story to emerge from the DfE’s data

For me, the story that should feature in the headlines is that almost one in six pupils living in the most deprived IDACI areas were classified last year as persistent absentees. (The Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index (IDACI) measures the proportion of all children aged 0 to 15 living in income deprived families. IDACI bands are based on 2015 IDACI scores. Further information on IDACI scores may be found at: that’s some 150,000 pupils out of 936,975 pupils. The percentage has been worsening each year since the new definition was introduced for persistent absentees some three years ago.


Pupil absence by Income Deprivation –percentages of persistent absentees (number of persistent absentees expressed as a percentage of the total number of enrolments.
2015/16 2016/17 2017/18 Change 2015/2016 to 2017/18 % change
0-10% Most deprived 15.3 15.7 16.0 0.7 5%
10-20% 13.6 13.9 14.3 0.7 5%
20-30% 12.4 12.8 13.1 0.7 6%
30-40% 11.4 11.7 12.0 0.6 5%
40-50% 10.4 10.6 11.0 0.6 6%
50-60% 9.1 9.4 9.8 0.7 8%
60-70% 8.2 8.5 8.8 0.6 7%
70-80% 7.2 7.4 7.9 0.7 10%
80-90% 6.4 6.6 7.1 0.7 11%
90-100% Least deprived 5.3 5.5 5.8 0.5 9%
Data uses IDACI decile of pupil residence


Now, it is true that the percentage of persistent absentees has increased in all IDACI deciles over the three years, but the relationship between the percentages of persistent absentees to IDACI band has remained constant.

The least deprived communities have always had the lowest percentage of persistent absentees, and the most deprived communities the highest figures. Now, it would be interesting to see these figures by year group, especially with the discussions about knife crime and its relationship to both exclusions and truancy. If that one in six overall in our most deprived communities is say, one in four in years 10 and 11, the government really ought to rethink the secondary school curriculum and its effects on the 50% of pupils not destined for higher education at age eighteen. Do we really want to alienate so many young people from our education system?

On the issue of term-time holidays, and the response to the Supreme Court judgement that altered the terms of the contract between the State and parents, there is a political decision to be made as to whether to accept the Court’s ruling or change the law?

In the table above it is obvious that although still small percentages, the percentages have been rising fasted among the least deprived groups, presumably as a result, at least in part, of more term-time holidays.