School absence levels reach highest for year at 8.4%

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Pupil absence rates at schools in England have climbed to their highest level so far this calendar year, new figures show.

Some 8.4% of pupils were absent across the week ending March 31, up from 7.0% the previous week.

It is the highest level since the last week of the autumn term in December 2022, when the rate stood at 14.3% amid a surge in cases of both flu and Covid-19.

An estimated 3.2% of pupils were away from school for unauthorised reasons in the latest week – again, the highest since the end of December.

This is the proportion of pupils who have missed 10% or more of their possible school sessions, defined as half a day.

Figures for persistent absence have remained around 23% since the data was first published in February.

The rate of persistent absence is higher in special schools (39.8%) and secondary schools (27.2%) than in primary schools (18.5%).

Separate figures published on Thursday show there were 200,800 suspensions in schools in England in the 2021/22 spring term, the equivalent of 2.4 per 100 pupils and the highest for any term since current data began in 2016/17.

There were 2,175 permanent exclusions in spring 2021/22, or 0.03 per 100 pupils – the highest since before the Covid-19 pandemic.

North-east England had the highest rate of permanent exclusions, at 0.05 per 100 pupils, while inner London and south-east England had the lowest, at 0.01 per 100.

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