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Leeds pupils ‘falling behind’ through missed lessons

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There are 4,500 pupils in Leeds at risk of falling behind in English and maths because they were persistently absent from lessons last year, new figures have revealed.

One-in-20 pupils in the city regularly missed school in the 2012/13 academic year, according to the Department for Education.

This was above the national average of 4.6 per cent but an improvement on 2011/12 when 5.6 per cent of Leeds pupils were classed as persistent absentees.

Pupils are classed as being persistently absent if they miss 15 per cent or more of their education. It includes both unauthorised and authorised absences from school. Evidence shows that when pupils miss between 10 and 20 per cent of their education only 39 per cent get five A* to C GCSE grades including English and maths. This compares to 73 per cent of pupils who miss less than five per cent of school.

The DfE figures record levels of absence and truancy for the 2012/13 year - before the Government tightened up the guidelines. In the past headteachers had the discretion to give parents up to 10 days of absence during term time.

In August last year, however, the DfE said that schools should only give permission for absence during school in “exceptional circumstances”.

Last year the DfE also increased the amount parents could be fined for truancy from £50 to £60 and from £100 to £120 if the fine was not paid within 28 days. The tables from the DfE also show that 223 sets of parents in Leeds were issued with fines for failing to ensure their child attended school and 103 were prosecuted for failing to pay the fines. Nationally almost 8,000 cases were taken to court.

Councillor Judith Blake, Leeds City Council’s executive member for children’s services, said: “Improving attendance is one of our key priorities and these figures show that by working closely with schools we have been able to reduce the number of children and young people who are persistently absent, and missing out on vital days of education.”

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