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Misleading truancy figures

The distinction between pupils who play truant and those who miss lessons for valid reasons would be dropped from schools' data under plans being considered by the Government, writes Michael Shaw.

Education minister Ivan Lewis revealed to The TES that he was considering ending the distinction between unauthorised and authorised absence and judging schools on overall attendance.

"One of the problems is different schools have different policies - quite wildly different policies - on what is authorised and what is unauthorised."

The change would mean that schools that give permission for parents to take pupils on holidays during term-time would fare worse in attendance league tables.

The idea of scrapping the division between authorised and unauthorised absence was welcomed by the Secondary Heads Association.

John Dunford, SHA general secretary, said: "It's what we've been telling the Government to do for some time. The statistics, as they are, can be very misleading."

The minister stressed the proposed change should not be seen as a sign the Government was relaxing efforts to cut truancy. Mr Lewis said he was confident schools would meet a challenging target to cut unauthorised absence by 2004 and that reductions would continue in subsequent years.

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