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Ministers set to crack down on students skipping school

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: July 18, 2011

Nick Gibb

Nick Gibb

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Thousands more pupils across the region will be placed in the worst category of school truants as part of a new Government crackdown on absenteeism.

Ministers have unveiled plans to widen the net to place many more youngsters in the troublesome bracket of “persistent absentee”, which will force schools to take action sooner.

The move was criticised by teaching unions, who said the “arbitrary targets” would have no real effect.

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said the definition of persistent absence used in the school performance league tables would be cut from 20 to 15 per cent – to deal with the “reality” of pupils skipping school and the impact it has on learning.

He believes tightening the criteria from October to include those who miss 15 per cent of their classes – the equivalent of a month’s schooling each year – will mean a national increase from 184,000 to 430,000.

As things stand, 4.2 per cent of pupils in Bristol are classed as “persistent absentees”, compared to 2.6 per cent in the South West and a national average of 2.9 per cent.

Wiltshire (2.9 per cent), Bath & North East Somerset and Bournemouth (both

2.8) and Somerset (2.7) are worse than the regional average, while Dorset and North Somerset are identical to it.

Devon, Gloucestershire and Swindon all have “persistent absentee” rates of 2.3 per cent, while South Gloucestershire has the West’s best record, at

2.1 per cent.

Mr Gibb says lowering the threshold will ensure schools take action sooner to deal with absence and believes it could be lowered further over time.

He said: “We know that children who are absent for substantial parts of their education fall behind their friends and struggle to catch up.

“By changing the threshold on persistent absence, we are encouraging schools to crack down on persistent absenteeism.”

Mr Gibb continued: “We will be setting out over the coming months stronger powers for schools to use if they wish to send a clear message to parents that persistent absence is unacceptable.”

Experts say there is clear evidence of a link between poor attendance at school and low levels of achievement.

Of pupils who miss between ten and 20 per cent of school, only 35 per cent manage to achieve five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This is another example of using accountability targets as an ineffective replacement for effective strategies to address the issues.”

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  • airhellair  |  July 23 2011, 2:02PM

    "Crack down on students skipping school?" A skipping school might be a good idea to help combat young obesity. It may also help counteract the effects of crack.....

  • bath1946  |  July 20 2011, 4:37PM

    Absenteeism as i said is primarily caused by boredom at school. There is also a hidden swathe of children caring for disabled, drunken, or drugged parents which are never disclosed because the child is afraid they will be separated. There is much to be said in favour of communes.

  • MortSchworz  |  July 20 2011, 10:42AM

    IF they really must judge schools on %absenteeism (and as I say its much more of a parenting issue than a school issue) at least use a 'relative improvement measure' rather than some arbitrary absolute number. If a school has an intake of high absentees they maybe can improve it over time-- but they arent miracle workers and schools should be judged on education !!

  • Images Fitness Centre  |  July 19 2011, 10:24PM

    My child has often been away from school due to sickness, he has several heart problems and also has to attend a number or hospital appointments. He is already on the absentee 'borderline' these targets do not appear to take into account individual circumstances.

  • bath1946  |  July 18 2011, 12:18PM

    How will setting targets cure absenteeism which is generally caused by boredom. Even children from dysfunctional backgrounds usually start off eager to learn. Apart from the inevitable frigging of numbers, what will happen if absenteeism persists ? It is pointless requiring an uninterested child at 14 to continue at school, emphasis should be placed on vocational studies.

  • MortSchworz  |  July 18 2011, 12:13PM

    Agreed Rob. My wife is a teacher and the fact Ofsted judges a school's performance significantly on attendance seems off kilter. OK the school and teachers need to provide good interesting lessons, but attendance is largely out of their control. Time to pressure the parents to get their kids to school and not teachers who are educationalists not social workers.

  • RobF87  |  July 18 2011, 11:35AM

    In the end 'persistent pupil absenteeism' is a parenting issue. Teachers (and Headteachers) should be there to focus on education and not pick up a whole swathe of social issues.

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