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On the Map - Truancy - Persistent absentees pinpointed

Those who read this magazine know the value of education. Sadly, there are some in society who do not share our view of the usefulness of schooling.

Across England, about one in 20 secondary school pupils was a persistent absentee, defined as those who missed 64 or more half-days, during the 200809 school year.

The highest percentage was among Year 11 pupils, where some 8.4 per cent, or one in 12 pupils, was a persistent absentee. Fortunately, the numbers seem to be on the way down, with a fall from 7 per cent of secondary pupils as persistent absentees in 200506 to 5 per cent in 200809.

As ever, persistent absentees can be found in greater numbers in the more deprived neighbourhoods. Only 4.6 per cent of pupils from England's least deprived areas were classified as persistent absentees, compared with over 8 per cent of those from the most deprived neighbourhoods. Some of this is due to issues of health and welfare, but the nature of the secondary curriculum may also be off-putting to some.

The North generally has higher levels of persistent absentees than the South, with 10 per cent of secondary school pupils in Manchester in this category, compared with 2.7 per cent in Kingston upon Thames, Surrey.

Rural areas generally have lower levels than authorities covering metropolitan areas, although London as a whole has one of the lowest regional averages for persistent absentees, along with the South West.

Nationally, less than 10 per cent of secondary school pupils accounted for more than a third of all absences. It is doubtful that many of these persistent absentees learn much on those days when they are present.

The effect of raising the learning leaving age to 18 may well depend upon addressing the curriculum on offer to these pupils and the outcomes of the pupil premium funding model, advocated by both coalition partners in the new Government.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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