Truants miss 3.7m school days official figures show

Teenagers on bikes in park
Image caption On a typical day last Autumn some 55,600 pupils skipped lessons, official figures suggest

About 3.7 million school days were missed last autumn by pupils playing truant according to official figures.

On a typical day, some 55,600 youngsters skipped lessons without permission suggest statistics from the Department for Education published on Thursday.

But overall absence figures were lower than the year before, due to less sickness and fewer term-time holidays.

The schools minister Nick Gibb said the figures were a welcome fall in absence.

"Tackling absence from school is a key part of the government's determination to close the attainment gap between those from poorer and wealthier backgrounds.

"Whatever the reason for a child's absence from school, the data shows that when children miss a substantial part of the school term their academic achievement suffers permanently," said Mr Gibb.

Less sickness

The overall absence rate in state-funded primary and secondary schools fell from 6.1% in 2010 to 4.7% in 2011 though the number of pupils playing truant remained stable at 0.9% in 2011, compared with around 1% in 2010.

Illness was the most common reason for absence, accounting for more than half (58%) of school days missed.

The figures show a substantial decrease in absence rates for illness between the autumn term of 2010 and the autumn term of 2011.

In autumn 2011 some 11.4 million days of school were missed because of illness, compared with 15.2 million days in autumn 2010.

The government says that figures from the Health Protection Agency show much lower levels of flu-like illness in the winter 2010/11 than in previous years.

The figures also show that families took fewer agreed holidays during term time. The number of school days lost because of agreed holidays dropped by around 300,000 from 2.5 million in Autumn 2010 to 2.2 million in Autumn 2011.

Mr Gibb said: "Such absence is still a problem but it is clear that more head teachers are refusing simply to wave through parents' requests to take their children out of school for term-time holidays.

"Increasingly parents understand the damage that can be caused to a child's education from missing even a day or two of school."

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