50,000 days lost to truancy

ALMOST 50,000 school days in Sheffield were lost due to "unauthorised absence" in only one term, new figures have revealed.

Tuesday, 11th September 2007, 2:02 pm
Updated Wednesday, 12th September 2007, 10:05 am

The statistics include truancy, lateness and children who skip school because their parents have taken them on holiday during term time.

Ministers yesterday warned parents taking children out of lessons for holidays can harm their education.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families figures show 45,353 school days were lost due to 'unauthorised absence' in Sheffield in the spring term, between January and April.

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An even higher amount - 49,633 school days - were lost last autumn, between September and December. The so-called unauthorised absence rate in the city's schools increased from 1.18 per cent in the last term of 2006 to 1.34 per cent in the first term of this year.

Sheffield's Cabinet member for Children's Services Coun Harry Harpham said the authority was fully committed to reducing unauthorised absence.

"We work extremely hard to make sure Sheffield children attend school. People will have seen us out and about on truancy sweeps, and we have taken a number of parents to court," he said.

"We do not condone taking family holidays in term time and I'm personally surprised that a responsible parent would consider it acceptable."

The figures also showed that 33,616 school days were lost in Rotherham in the autumn term and 29,690 in the spring term.

In Doncaster pupils skipped 24,709 days of education in the autumn 2006 and 24,802 this spring. And in Barnsley, 30,100 school days were lost due to unauthorised absence in the autumn and 19,138 in spring.

Across both primary and secondary schools in England, pupils skipped nearly 7.4 million morning and afternoon registration sessions during the spring term - almost 3.7 million school days.

Liberal Democrat spokesman David Laws said: "These dreadful figures show the Government is missing its truancy targets in spite of pouring hundred of millions of pounds into a top-down initiative."

Currently schools are currently able to grant up to 10 days authorised holiday on a discretionary basis.

But guidance states this should not be an automatic right for parents.