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Tenth of pupils missing from Shropshire schools

By Rob Smith | Education | Published:

A tenth of pupils in Shropshire's state schools were regularly missing in the first two terms last year.

Department for Education figures show that 5,870 pupils at state primaries and secondaries in Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin were classed as persistently absent in autumn 2018 and spring 2019.

Of these, 3,439 were in Shropshire Council's area and 2,431 in Telford & Wrekin – making up 10 per cent of those enrolled in both areas.

For Shropshire, the figure for only secondary schools rises to 14 per cent. For Telford & Wrekin that figure is 13 per cent.

Shropshire's overall persistent absence rate dropped, from 12 per cent in 2017-18, in line with the national trend.

It was also less than in 2007-08, when the rate across England was nearly twice as high.

On average, it meant Shropshire pupils missed six days of school in the first two terms last year.

Authorised absences, such as for illness or medical appointments, accounted for 85 per cent of time off.

The rest were unauthorised, including those for truancy or arriving late.

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Family holidays for which permission was not given by the school made up more than a fifth of unauthorised absences.

Harmful

Meanwhile in Telford & Wrekin the overall persistent absence rate dropped slightly, from 11 per cent in 2017-18.

On average, pupils missed six days of school in the first two terms last year.

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Authorised absences explained 73 per cent of time off and the rest were unauthorised.

Holidays made up 15 per cent of unauthorised absences.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that missed days can be harmful to a child’s education, and that term-time absence must only be allowed in “exceptional circumstances”.

But he said the system of fines, whereby councils can hand parents £60 penalties for their child’s unauthorised absence, is a blunt instrument that often "drives a wedge between schools and families”.

He added: “The real problem is holiday pricing. Neither parents nor schools set the prices of holidays.

“They will both continue to be caught between a rock and hard place without some sensible government intervention.”

A DfE spokeswoman said: “Tackling persistent absence is a priority for the Government and it is encouraging to see a decrease in persistent and overall absence compared to last year.

“The rules on term-time absences are clear. No child should be taken out of school without good reason.

“We have put head teachers back in control by supporting them – and local authorities – to use their powers to deal with unauthorised absence.”

Rob Smith

By Rob Smith
Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based at Ketley in Telford.

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