Education chief vows to get to grips with school absences

Banbury Cake: Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley

MORE than 2,000 secondary school pupils missed at least 11 days of school in the autumn term.

The Department for Education has published school absence rates for the first academic term which showed 6.7 per cent of pupils at state schools in Oxfordshire had missed a high amount of school time.

Oxfordshire is the fourth worst in the South East, against a national average of 5.9 per cent.

However, at primary school level, only 3.4 per cent missed a similar amount of school days, meaning the county has an absence rate of 4.7 per cent – the same as the national average.

Nationally, the percentage of pupils absent during the autumn term for 22 or more sessions (half a day) has fallen from 10.3 per cent in 2009.

Of the 7,379 four-year-olds who started school in September, the county had an average absence rate of 5.4 per cent – slightly higher than the national average of 5.3 per cent.

There are 72,645 children at state schools in the county, of which 30,389 attend secondary school.

Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley said: “This is on our radar. We do have a system for keeping an eye on it.

“We have a meeting tomorrow about attendance and behaviour so I am sure we will discuss this. We are trying to get to grips with it.”

Liberal Democrat spokesman for education John Howson said with a large number of secondary schools now being academies, there was little the authority could do to improve the figures.

He said: “These figures are only for one term, but it is a key period for teaching and learning, and last winter was mild, so schools need to examine why absence is so high in Oxfordshire, and ensure it doesn’t affect educational outcomes.

“We will not build a skills based economy on children missing schooling to this extent.”

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