Number of absentees creeps up

FIGURES released this week show barely any shift in the pattern of pupil absenteeism, although there is a slightly upward trend. Authorised absences in primaries last year were 5.02 per cent compared with 4.63 per cent the year before, ranging from 7.1 per cent in Glasgow to 3.8 per cent in Orkney.

The secondary figure for authorised absences, which includes those condoned by parents, rose from 9.42 per cent to 9.81 per cent. This ranged from 15.2 per cent in Glasgow to 5.2 per cent in Angus.

Unauthorised absences, including truancy and temporary exclusions, also rose slightly from 0.29 per cent to 0.35 per cent in primary schools. East Dunbartonshire, East Renfrewshire, Shetland and the Western Isles recorded none, while Clackmannanshire and Edinburgh had the highest incidence at 0.9 per cent.

Among secondary pupils, unauthorised absenteeism went from 1.43 per cent to 1.54 per cent. Shetland reported a zero figure while Clackmannanshire had 5.2 per cent. A figure of 7 per cent at Alloa and Lornshill academies was the highest in the country.

Jim Goodall, Clackmannanshire's head of educational development, said what mattered was the total absence levels which were around the national averages. The authority operates a strict policy before an absence is accepted as explained and therefore authorised.

Glasgow schools, however, have the unenviable record of having the greatest non-attendance rates which soared to 26 per cent for authorised absenteeism at Drumchapel High, against the Glasgow figure of 7 per cent.

But the city says it is beginning to turn the problem round. A spokesperson said the overall attendance rate in primary schools had improved from 91.9 per cent in 1997-98 to 92.4 per cent last year.

The secondary picture was even better, with total attendance up from 81.7 per cent to 83.5 per cent. Secondary pupils are attending for an average of four more days a year than they were four years ago.

Figures for the first four months of this session show there is likely be a further improvement in secondary school attendance of 1.4 per cent and in primary of 0.7 per cent.

The spokesperson said: "Given that there is a clear link between poverty, deprivation and poor attendance, then Glasgow clearly faces a greater challenge."

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