Hartlepool has highest rate of pupils missing secondary school in the country

Pupils are missing school.
Pupils are missing school.

Latest figures show Hartlepool has the highest rate of secondary school pupils missing lessons in the country.

Hundreds of pupils in the town’s schools are missing vital lessons according to the new statistics from the Department of Education.

The council has given the highest priority to working closely with schools to ensure that progress is being made to improve rates

Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman

However, it also showed the number of fines handed to parents for their children’s poor school attendance dropped compared to the previous year.

Hartlepool Borough Council says this issue has been given the highest priority.

Figures show that Hartlepool’s secondary school pupils missed 7.5% of their lesson time in the 2017-18 academic year – the highest rate in the country.

Of those absences, more than 35% were unauthorised, including truancy or for family holidays for which permission had not been granted.

And 22% of the 5,446 pupils enrolled in secondary schools were classed as persistently absent, meaning they missed 10% of their total learning time.

Hartlepool’s primary school pupils missed 4.4% of their lesson time on average, with more than a quarter of absences unauthorised. Among primary pupils, 9% were persistent absentees.

Absence rates increased in secondary schools compared to 2016-17, when 6.2% of sessions were missed, but remained the same at 4.3% in primary schools.

In total, it means around 730 pupils were missing from primary and secondary school on the average day in 2017-18.

Meanwhile, there were 64 penalty notices handed to parents for their children’s absence, down from 74 in 2016-17.

A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesperson said: “Regular school attendance is a vital part of helping Hartlepool children to have the best start in life.

“The council has given the highest priority to working closely with schools to ensure that progress is being made to improve rates, that parents and carers are supported and, where necessary, enforcement action is taken.

“This in turn promotes learning and attainment, opening up doors and opportunities for our pupils.”

Across England, the number of fines issued increased by 75% to over 260,000 in 2017-18 – 85% of them for unauthorised family holidays.

The rise in fines comes after father Jon Platt lost a case at the Supreme Court in April 2017 for taking his daughter out of school for a holiday to Disney World, Florida, without permission.

The latest increase in the number of fines issued appears to be due to councils getting clarity from the Supreme Court judgment.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “High quality education and pastoral care will make a real difference to children’s life chances, and that’s particularly important for those who are most vulnerable, but clearly key initiatives will only work if children are present.

“That’s why the rules on term-time absences are clear: no child should be taken out of school without good reason.

“We have put head teachers back in control by supporting them – and local authorities – to use their powers to deal with unauthorised absence.”