Concerns grow at rate of pupils absence from schools in Peterborough

New figures trigger call for more investment in city schools

By Paul Grinnell
Tuesday, 10th May 2022, 4:00 pm

Concerns have been voiced about pupil absence rates as new figures show one in eight youngsters were not in schools in Peterborough before the Easter holidays.

Figures released by the Department for Education reveal that at least 4,559.43 pupils were absent from state-funded schools in Peterborough in the last week of March, just before the Easter holidays.

That means 12.9 per cent of pupils were away from schools which responded to the survey that week – up from 10.2 per cent in the week to February 10, before half term.

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Concerns have been voiced about the number of pupils absent from school in Peterborough ahead of the Easter holidays.

Nationally, 11.4 per cent of pupils were absent before the Easter holidays, up from 9.7 per cent in February.

In Peterborough secondary schools, 17.5 per cent of pupils were absent, more than the 8.5 per cent in primary schools.

A further 14.6 per cent of pupils did not attend special schools in the area.

In Peterborough, 15 per cent of children eligible for free school meals were absent from school before the Easter break.

Pupils can be listed as absent for any reason, including general sickness, contracting Covid-19, isolating as a positive contact, and any other disciplinary issue or unexpected absence.

The latest figures do not specify what proportion of pupils were absent due to Covid-19.

In addition, 9.7 per cent of teachers and 8.5 per cent of teaching assistants were absent in Peterborough in the week to March 31.

The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) said it is concerned by high absence rates across England and urged the Government to increase investment in services for disadvantaged children most at risk of missing school.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL, said: "It is very clear that Covid is continuing to wreak havoc and it is hard for schools to operate under these conditions.

He said pupils from vulnerable and disadvantaged backgrounds have been unfairly hit by the pandemic, and the high rate of absence is because they have become "disengaged from education".

Mr Barton urged the Government to increase investment in attendance and pastoral services to aid schools' efforts to support vulnerable children.

But a Peterborough City Council spokesperson said: “The rate of Covid cases rose throughout the month of March, as a direct result of the more infectious Omicron variant.

"Education was disrupted nationally with impact being seen in Peterborough schools during the last week of the spring term.

"The timing of Omicron also coincided with the Government’s removal of travel restrictions on March 18 - the resulting opening of popular holiday destinations saw a rise in the numbers of term time holidays being taken, resulting in an additional pressure on the city’s overall attendance figures.

"However the position from April 28 is a positive story in that we are now in line with national performance rates overall, and also seeing great results data wise in regards to some of our vulnerable groups.

"Schools in Peterborough continue to work hard to get back on track after the pandemic, providing support to their students ensuring that all children access education and when required engage with local authority services."

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