Just one day off can hamper children’s life chances, claims UK Government report

Report claims every extra day missed from school can affect grades.

Missing school for just a few days a year can damage pupils’ chances of gaining good GCSEs, according to a new report commissioned and published by the Department for Education.

The new research shows that overall absence had a negative link to attainment, with every extra day missed associated with a lower chance of achieving 5 or more good GCSEs or equivalent at grades A* to C including in English and mathematics, or gaining the gold standard English Baccalaureate (EBacc).

The research backs the government’s clampdown on absence and truancy to ensure more pupils regularly attend school and leave with the qualifications they need to succeed in modern Britain.

The latest annual pupil absence statistics for 2014 to 2015 were also published today and confirm that school absence has remained at near historic low levels. In particular, they show that:

  • the overall rate of absence was 4.6% compared to 6% in the same period in 2009 to 2010 – demonstrating that the government’s and schools’ approach to tackling absence is working
  • the slight 0.1% rise in overall absence since last year was driven by increases in absence due to illness – the most prevalent reason for taking time off from school, accounting for over 60% of all absence. This is in line with the rise in influenza between 2013 to 2015 and 2014 to 2015 seen in Public Health England statistics
  • the tightening of the rules around term-time holidays is also working – in 2014 to 2015, 13.8% of pupil enrolments had missed at least half a day for family holidays (both authorised and unauthorised), a decrease from 15.0% in 2013 to 2014
  • term-time holidays (authorised and unauthorised) accounted for 7.5% of all absences in 2014 to 2015 compared to 8.5% in 2013 to 2014 – equating to 4.1 million school days lost due to term-time holidays, down from 4.4 million in the previous year
  • nearly 200,000 fewer pupils were persistently absent from school than in the same period in 2009 to 2010, with the persistent absence rate remaining at historic lows at 3.7% compared to 6.8% in 2009 to 2010

Schools Minister Nick Gibb said:

This new research is further evidence that missing school for even a day can mean a child is less likely to achieve good grades, which can have a damaging effect on their life chances.

Today’s absence figures are good news – showing that schools are making real progress with almost 200,000 fewer pupils regularly missing school compared to 2010.

We introduced a tougher approach in 2010 to clamp down on children regularly missing lessons by increasing fines. Together with our reforms to improve behaviour, we have put teachers firmly back in charge of their classrooms.

The government introduced a number of reforms to help school leaders and teachers to improve attendance and tackle poor behaviour, including:

  • changing the regulations in 2013 so that headteachers only grant leave from school in exceptional circumstances
  • tackling persistent absence by reducing the threshold by which absence is defined as persistent from 20% to 15% from October 2011. This threshold was further reduced to 10% in September 2015. This means schools are held to a higher standard in performance tables than before
  • empowering teachers to crack down on bad behaviour by making clear teachers can use reasonable force to maintain behaviour, extending their searching powers and allowing teachers to impose same-day detentions
  • appointing behaviour expert Tom Bennett to lead reviews to ensure teachers are fully trained in dealing with disruptive children, and to look deeper into tackling poor behaviour more generally

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