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

PUBLISHED: 08:00 14 June 2014

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

Archant © 2013

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.

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.”

What do you think? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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