One in ten pupils persistently absent from schools in Suffolk and Essex
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One in ten pupils were persistently absent from schools in Suffolk and Essex last year, according to latest government figures.
The Department for Education (DfE) statistics for the 2017-2018 academic year revealed the percentage of persistent absentees at state-funded primary, secondary and special schools in Suffolk was 10.9% – up from 10.1% in 2016-17.
While in Essex, the percentage of persistent absentees had also increased to 10.4% from 10% in 2016-17.
Students who miss 10% or more of their possible sessions are identified as being persistently absent and the rates were highest in special schools.
The number of unauthorised absences also increased to 1.1% in Suffolk and 1.3% in Essex during 2017-18, although both were below the national average of 1.4%.
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The overall rates, including both authorised and unauthorised absences, for Suffolk and Essex also increased from 2016-17.
Nationally, illness remained the main driver of school absences, while the percentage of pupils who missed at least one session due to a family holiday across the country rose to 17.6% compared with 16.9% in 2016/17.
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Graham White, Suffolk National Education Union (NEU) press officer and former secretary, said: “It is very important for pupils to attend school as any absence has a negative impact on their exam grades.
“The differential cost of holidays is prohibitive to some parents and therefore some choose to take holidays in term time.
“Some parents cannot choose when they are granted holiday so they face the dilemma of either taking their child out of school in term time, not taking their children on holiday with them, or not going away on holiday.
“There is the added dimension of pupils who choose not to attend school. These pupils feel school does not meet their needs and may be because the curriculum has become too academically focused, the assessment system does not favour their strengths, or they are finding it hard to engage.”
Mr White added that he believed issuing fines to parents for pupil absences was the wrong approach.
“We need to educate parents and pupils on why school and education is so important,” he said.
“We need to devise a curriculum and assessment regime which engages pupils, and gives them the skills and knowledge they need to be responsible citizens.”