Absences pushed up by clothing grants

An analysis of attendance figures in East Renfrewshire has shown a clear link with levels of poverty.

All primaries have virtually zero rates of unauthorised absences, showing that truancy barely varies with type of school. But schools with proportionately more pupils on clothing grants, seen as the most reliable indicator of deprivation, have more authorised absences.

Carlibar primary in Barrhead has 88 per cent of its pupils on clothing grants, the highest proportion in East Renfrewshire, and is top of the table for authorised absences at 8.9 per cent. The council average is 4.8 per cent, below the Scottish figure of 5.6 per cent.

Auchenback in Barrhead (63 per cent on clothing grants), Thornliebank (52 per cent) and St John's in Barrhead (42 per cent) come in at 6.4 per cent, 7.5 per cent and 6.7 per cent respectively.

The attendance picture in secondary schools tells a similar story. St Luke's High, Woodfarm High and Barrhead High have around a third of pupils on clothing grants and the highest rates of authorised absence: 10.8 per cent, 11.1 per cent and 11.3 per cent. The East Renfrewshire average is 8.1 per cent and the national figure 11 per cent.

The three secondaries also have more temporary exclusions. But, as in the primary sector, there is virtually no divergence between schools' unauthorised absences.

Russell Forrest, one of Scotland's leading child experts and pupil support services manager in Edinburgh, says the contrast between authorised and unauthorised absences is revealing. "The former shows that schools struggling against the odds are more than holding their own in combating truancy," Mr Forrest said. "The latter figures are an indicator of poverty, as pupils are kept off school because of ill health or other adverse family circumstances. "

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