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Plus side of unauthorised absence

Gary Nott Brentwood

I am disappointed to see unauthorised absence feature so negatively in recent reports. There seems to be no mention of the idea that unauthorised absence might be a positive sign of a school's performance.

A school may have high unauthorised absence because it is trying to reduce overall absence. It may, for example, be refusing to authorise term-time holidays unless there are special circumstances, or repeated "medical"

absence unsupported by certification. Such unauthorised absence may be just what is needed in the short term. It sends out a clear message that absence without good cause will not be condoned.

Unauthorised absence rates for schools are best considered alongside individual authorised rates; together they can give an insight into school performance. A school might have high unauthorised absence but relatively low authorised absence, but what is its overall rate? If good, or improving, then the high unauthorised absence may be placed in context.

Gone should be the days when heads ran scared of receiving criticism from Ofsted for having any unauthorised absence at all. Times have changed, and the consistently negative use of the term in our media, and by some others, is not helping.

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