Truancy levels falling in Sheffield

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Fewer Sheffield pupils are regularly missing lessons – with a city-wide drive to improve school attendance levels finally showing results.

New figures show 5.9 per cent of youngsters missed 15 per cent or more of classes during the last 2012-13 academic year, less than 4,000 pupils.

The statistic is 0.5 per cent down on a year ago and is also now well below the national average of 6.4 per cent.

Barnsley had the highest level of persistent absentees in Yorkshire for 2012-13 with 6.8 per cent of pupils placed in the category, while in Rotherham and Derbyshire the figures fell slightly.

The Government figures record persistent absence, including both unauthorised and authorised absences.

City education chiefs have been seeking to cut truancy figures for some years and are pleased the trend remains downwards.

Their approach has targeted problem schools, pupils and their parents but there is still concern about too many families taking their children on unauthorised term-time holidays.

A new crackdown on holidays during term introduced last August is expected to lead to even better figures for this year, with headteachers now only allowed to sanction breaks in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

Coun Jackie Drayton, Sheffield Council cabinet member for children and young people, welcomed the improvements but said the authority still needed to continue working hard to maintain current progress.

In Sheffield much of the focus is now shifting to primary schools – figures last autumn revealed absences there were now the worst in the region.

But overall the picture shows the city is outperforming neighbours like Hull and Bradford.

Nationally more than 52,000 parents were given £60 spot fines for their child’s absence during 2012-13, up by 27 per cent, and another sharp rise is expected this year.

Across Yorkshire the figure topped 7,000 with more than 1,000 parents prosecuted for refusing to pay.