Pupils missed fewer lessons last year, but official figures show that about 56,500 pupils were still on unauthorised absence every day.
Government data suggests that children took less time off sick last year, resulting in absence rates falling slightly to 5%, down from 5.8% the previous academic year. The truancy – or unauthorised absence – rate was down from 1% to 0.9% of half days missed, The Independent reports.
There were several factors behind the improved figures, including lower levels of colds, flu and fever and the Muslim holiday Eid falling outside term time, leading to a drop in absence for religious observance.
The figures showed that over 310,000 pupils were ‘persistent absentees’, missing over 19 days of school. 10.6% of these pupils were eligible for free school meals, a key measure of poverty, compared to just 3.7% who weren’t eligible. Janet Grauberg from Barnardo’s said that the school system is failing the poorest pupils: “Schools need to do more to find the root causes for such a stark imbalance between the numbers of poor children missing valuable lesson time and their classmates.”