South West and Bristol in Top Three for Highest Overall School Absence Rate in England

School Absence Rates 2017/18:

A huge amount of data for the school year 17/18, has been released by the Department of Education today, regarding school attendance and absence in England.

The number of penalty notices issued to parents for unauthorised absence for last year increased by 74.7 per cent, from 149,300 in 16/17 to 260,900 in 17/18.

The most common reason for a penalty notice being issued was for unauthorised family holidays. These made up 85.4 per cent of penalties, with 0.2 per cent issued for arriving late to school and 14.3 per cent for ‘other’ unauthorised absence.

The School attendance parental responsibility measures in the Statutory guidance for local authorities,
school leaders, school staff, governing bodies and the police, says that: ‘If a child of compulsory school age fails to attend regularly at a school at which they are registered, or at a place where alternative provision is provided for them, the parents may be guilty of an offence and can be prosecuted by the local authority. Only local authorities
can prosecute parents and they must fund all associated costs.’

The current top fine is £2,500 and the court can also sentence parents to imprisonment for up to three months.

Parents can also be prosecuted and fined up to £1000, if a school has excluded their child and they are found in a public place during school hours.

Pupil absence at schools in England, both authorised and unauthorised increased last year, with unauthorised absences due to ‘other’ being the highest since records started.

Overall Absence Rates by Types of School


Across England, the overall absence rate across state-funded primary, secondary and special schools increased from 4.7 per cent in 16/17 to 4.8 in 17/18.

Unauthorised absence rates also increased in state-funded primary, state-funded secondary and special schools rising from 1.3 per cent in 16/17 to 1.4 per cent last year. The rate of unauthorised holiday absence remained at 0.4 per cent.

In the unauthorised absence statistics, it’s special schools faring the worst, with persistent absence more than double any other school type.

Persistent Absenteesim Rates by Types of School


Pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM) had a higher absence rate at 7.6 per cent compared to 4.3 per cent for those not claiming. Persistent absence rates for those children on FSM were more than twice that of those who were not eligible for FSM at 23.6 per cent.

Children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) or those still with a statement of special educational needs (SEN) had an overall absence rate of 8.7 per cent compared to 4.4 per cent of children with ‘no identified SEN’.

The percentage rate of children with an EHCP or SEN who were persistent absentees, were more than two times higher at 25.1 per cent than the percentage of pupils with no identified Send.

Pupil Referral Unit absence went up from 33.9 per cent in 16/17 to 35.3 per cent in 17/18. The persistent absentee percentage also went up from 73.9 per cent in 16/17 to 76.1 per cent in 17/18.

Persistent absence rates across state-funded primary, secondary and special schools by region and local authority  showed variations from 3.2 to 5.8 per cent.

The three regions with the highest overall absence rate across all state-funded primary, secondary and special
schools was similar to last year. The regions with the highest were the North East (5.1 per cent) and Yorkshire and the Humber and the South West (5.0 per cent). Inner and outer London had the lowest overall absence rates at 4.5 per cent.

Absences in Bristol 2017/18:

In Bristol state-funded primaries, the percentage of authorised absence was 3.0, unauthorised absence 1.1 and persistent absentees 8.7.

For Bristol state-funded secondaries, the percentage of authorised absence was 3.9, unauthorised absence 1.6 and persistent absentees 13.9.

For Bristol special schools, the percentage of authorised absence was 8.0, unauthorised absence 2.2 and persistent absentees 29.6.

In total for Bristol state and special schools, authorised absence was 3.5, unauthorised absence 1.4 and persistent absentees 11.2.

Bristol was the worst Local Authority in the entire South West region for unauthorised absence and persistent absenteeism, despite having 50,890 children in state and special schools compared to Devon’s 87,672 and Gloucestershire’s 75,897.

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