The schools with the worst truancy records have been named and shamed in the latest league tables.
The worst school is East Brighton College of Media Arts, Brighton, and the second worst is Thorpe Bay School, Southend, according to the government.
East Brighton has had a troubled history and is to close in the summer.
Thorpe Bay's head Jean Alder said her school was unfairly penalised because she refused to automatically accept parents' letters explaining absences.
Worst ten schools for truancy
1. East Brighton College of Media Arsts (12.7%)
2. Thorpe Bay School, Southend (10.4%)
3. New College, Leicester (9.4%)
4. Jarrow School, Jarrow (9.1%)
5. The International School and Community College, Birmingham (9.1%)
6. Merrill College, Derby (8.6%)
7. Kirkley Community High School, Lowestoft (8.5%)
8. Albion High School, Salford (8.2%)
9. The King's Academy, Middlesborough (8.2%)
10. Thamesbridge College, Reading (7.4%)
The Thorpe Bay School in Southend came second in the table losing 10.4% of its half-days during a year due to truancy, compared to the figure of 12.7% for East Brighton.
Mrs Alder took issue with the suggestion that it might have a truancy problem.
Mrs Alder, who took over at the school in January, said : "What you think of as truancy is pupils bunking off schools. The decision to authorise pupils' absence or not is down to schools.
"If I have a letter from a parent that they are sorry that little Johnny cannot come to school today because they have to go shopping or meet their dad at the airport, then that is not good enough.
"They are not in school but that is not unaccounted absence, it is absence with the parents' knowledge and support.
"That is borne out by the local truancy sweeps. We have no more pupils picked up than any other schools."
East Brighton College's executive principal Mark Whitby was brought in last year to oversee its final months after the decision was finally taken to close it.
But he insists that progress has been made, with the 12.7% figure for half-days lost to truancy an improvement on the 20% rate when he arrived.
But he also said the school had an undeserved reputation for poor discipline.
"Most people that visit comment about what a good atmosphere there is."