Big drop in Norfolk school absences - but thousands still at risk of becoming persistent absentees

Elizabeth Truss MP said attendance and attainment go hand in hand.  Photo: Bill Smith Elizabeth Truss MP said attendance and attainment go hand in hand. Photo: Bill Smith

Saturday, June 14, 2014
8:00 AM

Norfolk has seen a 24pc fall in the number of children who were judged to be at risk of becoming persistent school absentees, according to new figures for autumn 2013 from the Department for Education.

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However, the sharp fall still left 4,645 Norfolk children at risk of becoming persistent absentees, and Norfolk was above the national average, and performing worse than neighbouring counties.

A total of 5.2pc of pupils in Norfolk primary and secondary schools missed 22 or more sessions in autumn 2013, compared with 4.7pc across England, 5pc in Suffolk and 4.8pc in Cambridgeshire.

Val Creasy, attendance and exclusions strategy manager at Norfolk County Council, said: “The reasons for the 24pc drop in the total number of Norfolk pupils who missed 22 or more sessions are hard to state definitely. But we would expect that the support and challenge that has gone on in recent years in Norfolk regarding absence has contributed to this, with schools working with parents to reduce absence so as to enable children and young people reach their full potential. It’s good news that Norfolk has closed the gap at both primary and secondary level for persistent absence but we still have a way to go.

“On a positive front the data for the last academic year (up to half term five) shows persistent absence in primary schools in Norfolk was 2.9pc compared to a national figure of 3pc. We will be reviewing the data as the academic year progresses.”

Education minister and South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss said she did not know why Norfolk had a higher-than-average percentage of children at risk of being persistent absentees, but said good attendance and good attainment “go hand in hand”.

She said: “We have given tougher targets to heads in terms of absences, but also useful tools – for example, changing the regulations around term time holidays.

“What we know is that absence is very closely linked to attainment.”

She cited findings of Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw that in some of the worst performing areas, as in Norfolk, one of the issues was the absence figures. The data also showed a persistent trend for more pupils to be absent from secondary schools than from primary schools.

Ms Creasy said: “On closer inspection the data shows that there is a higher percentage of pupils in secondary schools who are absent due to illness or have medical/dental appointments.”

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5 comments

  • I agree Venessa, schools should be one great laugh from start to finish. Perhaps the head could do a few magical tricks at the start of the day, dinner ladies on roller skates and red noses, and regular school visits from well known comedians. In fact Ofsted should concentrate on measuring how much laughter is in the school, not boring things like learning outcomes....We will leave private schools to stick to teaching without fun and laughter, that boring old fashioned method.

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    Rhombus

    Wednesday, June 18, 2014

  • YarcoBoy has hit the nail on the head - poor attainment could lead to poor attendance! I am living proof - secondary school was boring, the lessons weren't long enough to get in to a subject deep enough to make it interesting or captivating enough so I put in little effort, hence poor attainment. My attendance therefore become poor because what the teachers were putting over wasn't taxing enough and school was just a boring chore, I learnt more by doing other things, I passed all my exams though! Got a good job on leaving school, worked my way up and now have a very comfortable life a lot of people would give their right arm for. It wasn't that I didn't have brains and couldn't be bothered to learn, it was simply that what I wanted to learnt wasn't in the curriculum. Too much emphasise is put on 'being academic' and not everyone can be that. Make school more engaging, rewarding, exciting and maybe attendance will improve. If you don't enjoy something you won't want to do it. Simple!

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    vanessa@hotair68.fsnet.co.uk

    Saturday, June 14, 2014

  • ...."The data also showed a persistent trend for more pupils to be absent from secondary schools than from primary schools".....this is outrageous, we must bring about compulsary absences at primary schools until we equalise this statistical blip. After that we must investigate why there is a continuing trend for secondary school pupils to be much heavier than primary school pupils, we know that weight and attainment go hand in hand.

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    Rhombus

    Saturday, June 14, 2014

  • Very good point YarcoBoy. Who notices that Ms Truss 'doesn't know why Norfolk has a higher than average ... etc' but nonetheless she seems to know we must have tougher targets!! 'Government' culture of saying "Look, we are doing something." Why don't we exclude persistent absentees .. it'll make the figures look better. How about asking, like YarcoBoy, the reasons for poor attendance.

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    Patrick

    Saturday, June 14, 2014

  • "Attainment is linked to attendance". But the causal link has not been shown. It is never discussed that poor attendance could be caused by their disillusionment with the school, having failed to make progress academically, or to fit in with main stream education. Poor attainment could lead to poor attendance.

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    YarcoBoy

    Saturday, June 14, 2014

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