The overall pupil absence rate is 4.5%. One in 10 of those are classed as ‘persistently absent’.

Persistent absences from school are a marker for poor attainment and life chances. They are generally defined as a child who, for a wide variety of reasons, misses 10% or more of the school year.

What does absenteeism include?

School absenteeism can include children:

  • Both formally excused by parents from attending (including illness) as well as absences that are not formally excused (e.g. truanting, unauthorised holidays, staying at home to look after a parent etc.).
  • Who refuse to go to school: children whose parents attempt to get them to school but which frequently results in non-attendance.
  • Who are excluded both on a fixed-term and longer-term basis – or those removed from the school roll.

The impact of absences

Studies tracking children over time note that persistent patterns of school absence can result in significant barriers to achievement. Children can, for example, fall behind in key skills, in attainment and in tests and at secondary school level they can be at higher risk of dropping out of school.

School absences, and the lack of confidence that accompanies falling behind, can also combine and cluster with other risks children might face which will affect their mental health and wellbeing and life chances.

Children with higher risk of missing school include:

  • Children with poor mental health, particularly conduct disorders, anxiety or depression
  • Children with SEND needs.
  • Children with some long-term health conditions.
  • Children facing other types of adversity such as:
    • Young carers – who can experience a higher number of absences either because they are struggling with caring obligations or because they are anxious about the wellbeing of their parent/carer. 
    • Children living in poverty (who are two to three times more likely to be persistently absent).
    • Children who are bullied.

Truancy, exclusions and school refusal


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