Nearly 5,000 pupils repeatedly skipped classes in Leeds over the first two terms of last year, new truancy figures show.
More than one in 20 children at the city’s primary and secondary schools bunked off for 19 days or more in autumn and spring 2011/12.
Of these 4,714 “persistent absentees”, 3,082 were from high schools – accounting for around one in 12 secondary school students.
The figures, published by the Department for Education (DfE) yesterday, reveal truancy levels of 1.3 per cent across Leeds primary and secondary schools.
The rate – measured by half-days missed without permission from teachers – was higher than the national average of 0.9 per cent.
Yorkshire’s overall truancy rate was the joint-highest in England, together with London’s, at 1.1 per cent.
The region also had the highest rate of persistent absentees, with 5.4 per cent of primary and secondary pupils regularly missing lessons.
Hull had the worst secondary truancy rate in the country, with three per cent of half days missed due to unauthorised absences.
More than one in 10 pupils in the city repeatedly cut classes, as did those in Barnsley, ranking them among the worst for persistent truancy.
Campaign for Real Education secretary Nick Seaton, from York, said parents and teachers needed to work together to tackle a “culture” of truancy in certain schools and areas, supported by tougher enforcement.
“It’s very sad that Yorkshire should be doing so badly,” he said.
“Parents need to encourage their children to value an education and make sure they go to school to enable them to be successful in later life.”
He added: “Schools themselves ought to be less accepting of truancy and heads and governors need to ensure these frightening numbers are kept down.”
Across the country, the overall absence rate fell slightly to five per cent from 5.8 per cent in the previous year, while national truancy fell slightly to 0.9 per cent from one per cent the year before.
The figures still show around 56,500 pupils were missing from lessons without permission on a typical day last year.
A report on the figures put the drop in overall absence down to fewer pupils missing school due to illness.
The Muslim festival of Eid also fell outside term time so there were fewer absences for religious reasons, it said.