Sheffield primary school absence joint worst in region

A school pupil plays truant
A school pupil plays truant
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Sheffield primary schools are bottom of the class for attendance, figures reveal.

Truancy rates among primary school pupils in the city are the worst in the whole of Yorkshire and the Humber.

Department for Education figures show 1.2 per cent of school days at primaries in Sheffield were missed due to unauthorised absence during the autumn term last year and spring term this year.

The figure means 1,853 pupils are classed as persistent absentees – and puts city primaries in the bottom 10 nationally.

In total, 5.3 per cent of Sheffield primary school days were missed due to truancy and sickness – the joint highest in Yorkshire and the Humber alongside Rotherham and Barnsley.

The statistics show 6.4 per cent of school days were lost in secondary schools – similar to last year and close to the Yorkshire and the Humber average of 6.2 per cent.

Barnsley had the third highest level of secondary school absence in the country at 7.4 per cent. Rotherham and Doncaster secondary school absence rates were 6.5 per cent.

Toby Mallinson, Sheffield joint divisional secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Clearly all members of the education profession want to minimise rates of school absence, which does have an adverse impact on pupils’ attainment.

“Schools try their hardest to tackle the problem and maybe the high primary school absence in Sheffield is a blip, but maybe something is not going right.

“Education officials need to examine the statistics and take action if appropriate.”

Sheffield Council, the local education authority, said it believed primary school absence was high due to an increase in illness in the autumn term of 2012/13 – and that levels will be lower in 2013/14.

The council added pupil absence is likely to fall further after a ban on term-time holidays was brought in except in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

A council spokeswoman said: “Improving school attendance and helping every young person in the city achieve their full potential is one of our key priorities.

“We believe consistent school attendance has a massive impact on young people’s educational achievements and the longer they are away from the classroom the harder it may be for them to fit back into school life and form friendships.

“We are determined to help Sheffield’s schools to improve their attendance figures after seeing a return to usual levels of sickness absence and therefore a higher number of young people being absent from school.

“We will continue to support those primary schools who are having specific problems to implement strategies to raise attendance within their school.

“This involves direct support from attendance and inclusion officers who will help raise awareness among schools and families about school attendance.”

The DfE said it aims to tackle absence by increasing fines for truancy, which last year rose from £50 to £60, and from £100 to £120 if not paid within 28 days.