School absence in England falls, figures show
The number of children missing lessons in England has fallen, government statistics indicate.
Pupils missed 35.7 million days of school in the autumn and spring terms of 2013-14 - down by 4.2 million on the same two terms the previous year.
The government said the fall was partly due to a clampdown on families taking children away on holiday in term-time.
The overall authorised absence rate - time off which is approved by head teachers - fell from 4.3% to 3.5%.
In total, 2.5 million school days in England were lost due to family holidays, both those authorised by the school and those unauthorised. This is down 0.8 million from 3.3 million the year before.
New holiday rules
Government officials suggested that this drop was down to tough new rules on holidays which mean that head teachers can now only grant permission for trips during term time in "exceptional circumstances".
Before, schools could allow up to 10 days leave a year for family holidays in special circumstances.
The change has been controversial, with critics arguing that some families cannot afford, or are not in a position, to take breaks during the school holidays.
The statistics show a "small increase" in family holidays that have not been approved by the school, suggesting that some parents are deciding to take family trips even though they don not have the school's approval.
The latest data also shows a fall in time missed because of sickness, the most common reason for absence, with 2.7% of half days lost for this reason in the autumn and spring terms, down from 3.3% the previous year.
The figures also show pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) and those with special educational needs (SEN) were more likely to miss classes.
The absence rate for FSM pupils was 6.6% compared to 3.9% for non-FSM pupils and pupils with SEN had an overall absence rate of 6.6% compared to 4% for those with no identified SEN.
The data also shows absence rates are higher for pupils at the end of their school career.
Pupils in Year 11 had an overall absence rate 1.5 times higher than the rate for pupils in Year 7 - 5.9 and 3.9% respectively.
The data shows truancy (or unauthorised absence) has also fallen slightly from 1% to 0.9% and fewer students are being classed as "persistently absent" (missing over 15% of lessons).
Around 262,255 pupils missed 15% of lessons in the autumn and spring terms of 2013/14 - down from 439,105 who were in this category five years ago.
The Department for Education said a child who misses at least 15% of lessons during their school career loses out on around 18 months of lesson time.
School Reform Minister Nick Gibb said: "Our plan for education is getting more young people than ever before back in class, helping thousands more to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations.
"Missing lessons can be hugely damaging to a pupil's education - but today's figures show more pupils than ever before are getting the best preparation for life in modern Britain."