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Barking leads the truancy league

Barking and Dagenham heads the table for persistent truancy. Its secondary truants were absent from school on average for nearly five weeks - almost three weeks more than the national average.

While the average number of days missed has remained stable nationally at 11 days for secondary truants, they have rocketed in the London borough. Last year's performance tables reveal truants were absent without authorisation for slightly more than three weeks.

In contrast, Newcastle, which has topped the league table for persistent truancy among secondary school pupils for two years, showed improvement. The average length of time its secondary truants skipped school fell by almost a week.

The authority has been at the forefront of national truancy initiatives and is working with police, traders and transport providers.

The attendance tables show the proportion of half-days missed by pupils in both authorised and unauthorised absence, but do not include the number of pupils who missed at least a half day during the year.

They continue to reveal long-term truancy in schools in the North and the capital, and worsening problems in North Tyneside and the London boroughs of Newham, Haringey and Bexley.

In North Tyneside, truants were absent for 37 half-days compared to 34 last year. In Newham, absences increased from 37 to 43 half-days, in Haringey from 27 to 38 half-days, and in Bexley from 31 to 34.

Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Coventry and the London boroughs of Southwark, Islington, and Hammersmith and Fulham continued to have problems with persistent truants, but improved on their performance in last year's tables.

In the primary sector, Newham jointly headed the league table for persistent truancy - although the average length of truancy fell. Truants were absent for 17 half-days compared with 20 last year. Manchester had an average truancy rate of 17 half-days. Other authorities with long-term primary truants were the London boroughs of Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Camden, Haringey and Southwark. While the national average of unauthorised absence for primary pupils was 10 half-days, they registered 15 or 16.

Two independent schools - Handsworth Alternative and Warleigh - headed the table of schools with the highest percentage of half-days missed through unauthorised absence (37.5 and 18.1 respectively).

Whalley Range High in Manchester, top of the truancy league last year, claimed attendance had been running at between 90 and 95 per cent since September.

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