Pupils: Absenteeism

Department for Education written question – answered on 15th May 2019.

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Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Conservative, Witham

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate his Department has made of the number of unauthorised school absences in (a) Witham constituency, (b) Essex and c) the UK in the last three years for which data is available.

Photo of Priti Patel Priti Patel Conservative, Witham

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps his Department is taking to reduce the number of (a) unauthorised and (b) persistent absences of students from school.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

It is a priority to reduce overall school absence as part of the Government’s ambition to create a world-class education system.

Data on the number of unauthorised absences are published in the termly “Pupil absence in schools in England” statistical releases, and can be found here:


Information for each school, local authority and England is provided in the underlying data. Information by local authority and England is also provided in the “National and local authority” tables.

The Department has already taken a number of steps to reduce the number of unauthorised absence and tackle persistent absence. In 2013, the Government amended legislation to make it clear that leave of absence could be authorised by maintained schools only in exceptional circumstances. It is up to individual schools to decide what constitutes exceptional circumstances.

Overall school attendance is improving, and absence rates have followed a general downward trend since 2006-7. The Department recognises that persistent absence is hard to tackle. Children may be persistently absent from school for a number of reasons including long term sickness.

To enable schools to act earlier in dealing with patterns of poor attendance, the Department has tightened up the definition of persistent absence in national statistics and equipped schools and local authorities with a range of sanctions they can use to tackle poor attendance. This includes penalty notices, parenting orders, fast track programmes, parenting contracts, and ultimately prosecution.

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