Although there is still a wide variation in rates of unauthorised absences between different schools and authorities, the trend is clear. The lowest truancy rates are found in rural areas. London, especially inner- London, and some northern cities have the highest levels of absence.
The table above shows all 13 inner London authorities had truancy rates of 1 per cent or more.
Other figures reveal that some of the authorities with the poorest examination results also have the worst truancy records.
These findings set the benchmark by which the success of initiatives such as the education action zones and Excellence in Cities will be judged.
Curiously, some education authorities with "three-tier" systems (where upper schools are fed from nine to 13 middle schools), have rates of unauthorised absence that are higher than might be expected. Three of the 10 worst secondaries, all with unauthorised absence rates of 8 per cent of more, are upper schools in three-tier systems. The remaining 13 to 18 schools have above average rates of unauthorised absence. This cannot be fully explained by their locations.
Overall, most pupils were in school on the day of the census. Whether they stayed there all day is another question.
John Howson is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. E-mail: Int.firstname.lastname@example.org