New stats released today show that overall school absence in 2021/22 was 7.6%, higher than around 4-5% in previous years. The share of pupils persistently absent (meaning they missed at least 10% of possible school sessions) was 22.5%, up from 10-11% pre-covid. The share of pupils severely absent (meaning they missed at least 50% of possible school sessions) was 1.7%, up from 0.5%-1% pre-covid. After 13 years of unauthorised absence rates between 1.0%-1.4%, unauthorised absence jumped to 2% in 2021/22.
Of the 1.6 million pupils who were persistently absent in 2021/22, I calculate that 621,000 pupils were persistently absent due to illness alone and over 1 million pupils – 1,023,000 – were persistently absent for reasons other than just illness.
I am particularly concerned that the persistent absence rate was much higher among certain groups of children. The persistent absence rate was 72% among Irish Traveller pupils, 65% among Gypsy Roma pupils, 56% for pupils with profound and multiple learning disabilities, 41% for pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs, and 37% among pupils eligible for free school meals, compared to 23% among all pupils.
Among the same groups of children, the severe absence rates were also much higher. The severe absence rate was 14% among Irish Traveller pupils, 8% among Gypsy Roma pupils, 9% among pupils with profound and multiple learning disabilities, 7% for pupils with social, emotional and mental health needs, and 3% among pupils eligible for free school meals, compared to 1.7% among all pupils.
At a local authority level, excluding City of London and Isles of Scilly, absence varied from 6.1% in Lewisham to 9.2% in Torbay, unauthorised absence varied from 1.0% in Rutland to 3.9% in Knowsley and the persistent absence rate varied from 17% in Rutland to 29% in Middlesbrough.