Shock scale of school abscence revealed

UP TO 5,500 pupils in Suffolk are absent from school on any single day, it has been revealed.New data shows that more than half of the county's schools failed to meet attendance targets agreed by the local education authority during 2004-05.

By Danielle Nuttall

UP TO 5,500 pupils in Suffolk are absent from school on any single day, it has been revealed.

New data shows that more than half of the county's schools failed to meet attendance targets agreed by the local education authority during 2004-05.

The absence rates were published in a report on Suffolk County Council's website and include both authorised absence such as sickness, holiday leave and unauthorised.


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Suffolk's school population is just under 100,000. The average absence rate for the county's 332 mainstream schools during 2004-05 was 5.5%, which outperformed the present national average of 6.44%.

But a total of 186 of these schools missed their own attendance targets, the report shows.

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Kirkley Community High School in Lowestoft had the highest rate of absence last year at 13.5%, followed by Holywells in Ipswich at 11.9% and Castle Manor Business and Enterprise College in Haverhill at 11.6%.

But all three of these schools had improved their performance compared to 2003-04, with Kirkley's rate falling from 14.6%, Holywells from 12.5% and Castle Manor from 12.98%.

Castle Manor also met the target recommended by the council at 11.71%.

Holbrook Primary School in Holbrook had the lowest absence rate of all schools in Suffolk during 2004-05 at just 2.4%, followed by Henley Primary School in Ipswich and Hintlesham and Chattisham Primary School, which had a joint rate of 2.7%.

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said last night: “It is vitally important for every child of statutory school age in Suffolk to receive a full time education.

“For those who are registered at a school this means they must attend regularly. There is a clear link between attendance and attainment - children and young people do better and are safer when they study every day.

“It is reassuring to see that many of our schools have met their targets for lowering absences.

”We will continue to work with all the schools to maintain the focus on attendance and to achieve even better results in the future.”

Increasing school attendance is one of the Government's key aims as research has shown there is a link between attendance and attainment in school aged children.

New regulations which came into effect on February 14 2005 require all schools to set an annual target to reduce absences and to notify the local authority of their targets for its agreement. The Department for Education and Skills should then be notified of the targets.

The new Public Service Agreement target for school absence is to reduce the 2002/03 level of school absence by 8% by 2007/08.

The national absence rate in schools now stands at 6.44%. In primary schools the national average is 5.43% while in secondary it is 7.81%.

Martin Goold, Suffolk secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “It does appear to be rather high (in Suffolk). I would like to see how it compares with previous years.

“We were not aware that absenteeism is a problem in Suffolk or attendance was particularly difficult in Suffolk. I think we need to study the figures more carefully.

“It seems high but most absences are going to be down to illness.”

Kesgrave High School near Ipswich and St Albans Catholic High School, also in Ipswich, had the lowest absence rate of all Suffolk high schools, with a joint rate of 5.7%, followed by East Bergholt High School at 5.9%.

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