Government data has revealed that in English schools, the rate of absence rose in 2017/18 with unauthorised absences from schools now reaching a record high.

The Department for Education says that the rate of unauthorised absences has risen from 2016’s figure of 1.3% to 1.4% last year.

That’s the highest level of school absences in England since records began.

Also, the rate of authorised absences has risen to 3.5% last year, from 3.4% in the year before.

The overall rate of absence in state-funded schools

This means that the overall rate of absence in state-funded special, primary and secondary schools increased last year to 4.8%. It was 4.7% in the year before.

Despite the increase, it’s still lower than 2006/07 absence rates which were recorded at 6.5%.

Meanwhile, the absences that are caused by authorised and unauthorised family holidays has remained stable at 0.1% and 0.4% respectively.

The figures show that special schools have higher absence rates than non-special establishments and that figures for those pupils who are eligible for free school meals, and have English as a first language, show that they are more likely to be absent than any other pupil.

Damian Hinds defends the exclusion system

Meanwhile, the education secretary Damian Hinds has defended the exclusion system used in schools and suggested that a better indicator for knife crime growth could be truancy.

However, he also admitted that the efforts being made to help reduce the numbers of pupils who are persistently absent from school have stalled currently.

Mr Hinds’ comments challenge those being made by Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, who is among those claiming that the surge in knife crime is linked to the rise in the numbers of pupils being excluded from schools.

The education secretary says that the reality behind the figures is ‘more complex’.

Number of pupils who persistently absent themselves

He explained that a bigger concern for him and his department is down to the number of pupils who persistently absent themselves from school and he points to research revealing that 80% of young offenders who use knives had been regularly truant in one of the five years before they committed an offence.

The figures reveal that around one in 10 pupils are persistently absent from school.