Thousands of children missing school across Suffolk – with 260,000 teaching days lost in just one term

On average, children in Suffolk missed three days of school each during the autumn term Picture: GET

On average, children in Suffolk missed three days of school each during the autumn term Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Thousands of pupils were missing from Suffolk’s schools each day during the first term of this school year – with one in five absences unauthorised.

Figures from the Department for Education show that on average 3,793 pupils were out of school every day, citing medical appointments, religious observances or holidays as reasons for authorised absences.

Pupils between the ages of five and 15 in state schools in Suffolk missed an average of 3 days over the autumn term. With 85,000 enrolled in the area’s schools, this means 260,000 teaching days were lost.

Meanwhile 10,011 pupils were classed as persistently absent, meaning they missed more than 10% of their total lesson time.

The majority of absences from Suffolk’s schools during the autumn term, 80%, were authorised. Illness accounted for 62% of time out of school.

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Local councils can impose fines of £60 on parents for not ensuring their children attend school, rising to £120 if not paid within 21 days.

A spokesperson for Suffolk County Council said: “It is concerning that of the 260,000 teaching days lost more than half (160,000) were lost due to ‘illness’ and we would encourage parents and schools to work together to identify where a pupil is still able to attend school in these instances.

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“Suffolk County Council’s position is to embed in all communities that ‘school attendance matters’ and that good school attendance improves the life chances of children by improving their attainment and engagement with education.

“The local authority, via the County Attendance team and Suffolk Family Focus, encourage an early intervention process and work with Education Welfare Officers (EWOs) to look at the underlying issues for the reasons of non-attendance and will, where notified by the school that there is an issue, work with the school to provide help and support to the family to get the child back to school.

“There has been an increase in the number of families engaging with schools and EWOs to seek support to reduce absence. This has also led to Suffolk pupils attending over 91,770 more schools sessions in the autumn term of 2017-18 compared to autumn term 2012-13.

“Regardless of the cause or type of absence, Suffolk County Council’s position on school attendance remains clear. We can only Raise the Bar if the children are in the classroom.”

Just 6% of absences were recorded as being for unauthorised holidays, but a further 12% were unauthorised with no reason stated.

Suffolk’s secondary school pupils missed 3.4 days of teaching on average - more than primary school children, who missed 2.7 days.

Pupil absence was higher in Suffolk than across the East of England, where pupils missed an average of 2.9 days of teaching over the autumn term. Nationally, pupils also missed an average of 3 days of school.

After years of improving attendance, the percentage of school sessions missed has increased nationally each of the last two years.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Children only get one chance at an education and evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs.

“The rules on term-time absences are clear and we have put schools back in control by supporting them - and local authorities - to use their powers to deal with unauthorised absence.”

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