Page last updated at 10:33 GMT, Tuesday, 6 May 2008 11:33 UK

348,000 'persistent truant' risk

Teenagers
In some cities 14% of pupils are on the margins of persistent truancy

Truancy statistics show that more than 348,000 pupils in England are officially classified as being at risk of becoming "persistent truants".

This figure, from truancy figures for autumn 2007, means that more than one in 20 children has been identified as falling into this category.

The overall number of unauthorised absences rose marginally to 0.94% - based on half-days missed.

Authorised absences, such as illness, rose marginally to 5.32%.

Stubborn problem

Truancy has remained a problem that has proved stubbornly difficult to resolve, despite numerous high-profile crackdowns and threats of punishment.

These latest figures show that in terms of pupils missing lessons - either with or without permission - the picture remains marginally worse than last year.

Unauthorised absences are up from 0.92% to 0.94% and authorised absences, such as illness, dentists appointments and family holidays, have risen from 5.04% to 5.32%.

But these latest figures reveal that as well as a hard core of persistent truants - 0.7% of pupils - there is also a much larger group of children identified as being on the margins of such persistent absence.

Using the measurement of missing more than 27 school sessions in a term, there are 3.8% of pupils in primary and 7.6% in secondary who are labelled as "may become persistent absentees".

The combined figure for all state schools is 5.6% in this risk category - up from 5.3% last year.

The group of persistent truants, who have missed more than 63 school sessions, has fallen slightly to 43,900.

Empty seats

A regional breakdown for these figures shows the scale of the problem of missed lessons in some urban areas, particularly in northern cities.

In Manchester, 14.2% of secondary pupils are in this group on the margins of becoming persistent truants. In Hull, the figure is 14.3%. In contrast, the figure for inner London is 6.9%, with Islington the highest figure for an inner London borough at 10.7%.

At the lower end of the scale, Redbridge has 4.6% of secondary pupils classified as being at risk of becoming persistent truants.

There have been concerns that while overall exam results have shown an improvement, there remains another substantial group of pupils who have made much less progress - characterised by truancy and failing to even take GCSEs in basic subjects.

Figures published last month showed that one in 10 pupils were not even sitting the five GCSEs including English and maths now considered as the basic threshold for the end of the compulsory stage of secondary school.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said that illnesses last winter, particularly novovirus, had contributed to the the rise in the number of pupils in danger of becoming persistent truants.

Children's Minister Kevin Brennan said: “Behind every single absence statistic is an individual story we need to get to the bottom of and solve. There can be no passivity in the face of the scourge of persistent absence.

"We will encourage schools and councils to provide whatever positive support they can. But parents who fail in their duty to get their kids to school every day should expect tough sanctions."

Liberal Democrat education spokesman, David Laws, said the rising figures showed that tactics such as prosecuting parents were not working.

"A community-wide approach involving parents, police and local welfare officers would be much more effective than the current top-down measures pursued by ministers," he said.



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SEE ALSO
Truancy rate 'highest since 1997'
26 Feb 08 |  Education
School truancy worse than thought
29 Mar 07 |  Education
Term-time holidays fuel absences
11 Sep 07 |  Education

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