The Department for Education collects information on absence through the termly school census. We collect data on the number of possible sessions, number of authorised absences, number of unauthorised absences and the reason for absence for each pupil. The reasons for absence do not include a category, which would enable us to identify sessions missed due to a lack of access to menstrual products. Full details of the absence data we collect in school census can be found in the census guidance here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/school-census.
We are committed to ensuring that any action to address absence is based on robust evidence. We have sought to establish whether there has been any rigorous national assessment of the prevalence of period poverty or its impact on attendance, however none appears available. We reached out to school stakeholders in July 2017 through the Association of School and College Leaders forum asking for contributions on the issue and have received a very limited response. We are producing additional analysis of our absence data to look for evidence of period poverty and will publish findings in due course.
We have made it a priority to reduce school absence for all pupils and there has been some notable success in this area, with overall yearly absence rates decreasing from 6.5% of possible sessions missed in 2006/7 to 4.6% in 2015/16.