REVEALED: Croydon has second-highest rate of secondary school truancy in London. How does your child’s school compare?

Sedgehill Secondary School had the second highest unauthorised absence rate in Lewisham. Pic: Google Maps

In the second of a two part examination of the crises affecting the education system, Harry Thompson looks at how prevalent unauthorised absences are in Eastlondonlines schools.

Schoolchildren in Croydon have the second highest rate of unauthorised absences in London, out of 32 boroughs, while pupils in Tower Hamlets were least likely to take a day off.  

Using the latest absence data released by the Department for Education available for a full academic year, Eastlondonlines ranked how all state-funded secondary schools in Croydon, Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Lewisham compared in 2017/2018.  

In Croydon students missed a collective total of 68,428 days in 2017/2018 without school authorisation, making the rate of unauthorised absences 2.1 per cent, only Greenwich had a higher rate of unauthorised truancy at 2.3 per cent.

The average for unauthorised absences for outer London schools was 1.5 per cent of which were unauthorised absences. While in inner London the unauthorised truancy rate was 1.6 per cent.  

This means on average each Croydon pupil was truant for one day more than students across the rest of London and missing 0.6 per cent more sessions than average school children in outer London.  Although this might not sound like a huge amount, this means that on average Croydon school children are absent without permission 40 per cent more often than in neighbouring boroughs.    

In other words, while the average London schoolchild misses 2.6 days of school without authorisation, the average Croydon child misses a whole extra day, with 3.6 days per year.  

Bow School had one of the lowest rates of unauthorised absences in Tower Hamlets, and was well below the city average. Pic: Diamond Geezer

Geoff Barton, General Secretary at the Association of School and Collage Leaders said: “It is difficult to say why there are different rates of absence among school pupils in different London boroughs.”

 “What we do know is that persistent absentees account for almost a third of all authorised absence and more than half of all unauthorised absence, so improving the attendance of these pupils is key.”

“Unfortunately, there have been severe cuts to local authority and school funding which make it more difficult to provide the intervention and the support that is necessary to achieve this objective.”

Other Eastlondonlines boroughs were also above the average with Lewisham ranking fifth highest in the city for unauthorised absences. But on the other end of the scale, Tower Hamlets schoolchildren were the fifth least likely in the city to be truant without permission while Hackney students were also below the inner London average of 1.6 per cent at 1.5 per cent.

However, overall, inner London schoolchildren are still marginally less likely to be truant than outer London, while the national average of unauthorised absences also sat at 1.6 per cent.  

This means that Croydon placed 51 out of 325 local authority school districts in the highest national truancy rankings. Croydon also had the highest rate of total absences at 5.3 per cent, while school children in Tower Hamlets school children missed the least school overall at 4.5 per cent.   

The total absences rate is the total number of sessions missed out of the total number of potential sessions offered by the school. In other words, if a school has an absence rate of 5, then students have collectively missed 5 per cent of available sessions the school has offered throughout the academic year.   

So how does your child’s secondary school compare to others across the borough? 

Croydon
Hackney
Lewisham
Tower Hamlets

A spokesperson for Croydon council said: “Croydon has the largest youth population in London and we do everything we can to help all of the borough’s young people achieve their full potential.”

St Mary’s Catholic High School, Woburn Road, Croydon, has the 6th highest unauthorised absence rate of all schools in London. Meanwhile Mulberry UTC, Hackney, despite being new, had the highest total absence rate of any state funded secondary school in London.  

Geoff Barton, General Secretary at the Association of School and Collage Leaders said: “It is difficult to say why there are different rates of absence among school pupils in different London boroughs.”

 “What we do know is that persistent absentees account for almost a third of all authorised absence and more than half of all unauthorised absence, so improving the attendance of these pupils is key.”

“Unfortunately, there have been severe cuts to local authority and school funding which make it more difficult to provide the intervention and the support that is necessary to achieve this objective.”

Unauthorised absences can lead to fines and even prosecution. Parents can be served a School Attendance Order if the council thinks your child is not getting an education.

If you can’t provide evidence that your child is registered with a school or is being home-schooled the council can allocate fines or prosecution.  

The standard fine is £60, but will be doubled if not paid off within 21 days. Prosecution can lead to a fine of up to £2,500.  

St Mary’s Catholic High, St Andrews CE, Norbury Manor, Hackney New school, Haggerston, Petchey Academy, Pendergast Vale, Sedghill Secondary, Pendergast Ladywell, George Green, London Enterprise Academy and Wapping high school have all been approached for comment. At the time of publication none have offered comment.

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