Academic Year 2016/17

Pupil absence in schools in England

Published
Last updated
See all updates (3)
  1. Updated boundary file on LAD map of absence rates.

  2. Underlying data file updated to include absence data by pupil residency and school location, and updated metadata document.

  3. First published.

Read national statistical summaries, view charts and tables and download data files.

Find out how and why these statistics are collected and published - Pupil absence statistics: methodology.

This release was created as example content during the platform’s Private Beta phase, whilst it provides access to real data, the below release should be used with some caution. To access the original, release please see Pupil absence in schools in England: 2016 to 2017


Headline facts and figures - 2016/17

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About these statistics

The statistics and data cover the absence of pupils of compulsory school age during the 2016/17 academic year in the following state-funded school types:

  • primary schools
  • secondary schools
  • special schools

They also include information for pupil referral units and pupils aged 4 years.

We use the key measures of overall absence and persistent absence to monitor pupil absence and also include absence by reason and pupil characteristics.

The statistics and data are available at national, regional, local authority (LA) and school level and are used by LAs and schools to compare their local absence rates to regional and national averages for different pupil groups.

They're also used for policy development as key indicators in behaviour and school attendance policy.

Within this release, absence by reason is broken down in three different ways:

  • distribution of absence by reason - the proportion of absence for each reason, calculated by taking the number of absences for a specific reason as a percentage of the total number of absences

  • rate of absence by reason - the rate of absence for each reason, calculated by taking the number of absences for a specific reason as a percentage of the total number of possible sessions

  • one or more sessions missed due to each reason - the number of pupils missing at least 1 session due to each reason

Pupil absence rates

Overall absence

The overall absence rate has increased across state-funded primary, secondary and special schools between 2015/16 and 2016/17 driven by an increase in the unauthorised absence rate.

It increased from 4.6% to 4.7% over this period while the unauthorised absence rate increased from 1.1% to 1.3%.

The rate stayed the same at 4% in primary schools but increased from 5.2% to 5.4% for secondary schools. However, in special schools it was much higher and rose to 9.7%.

The overall and authorised absence rates have been fairly stable over recent years after gradually decreasing between 2006/07 and 2013/14.

Unauthorised absence

The unauthorised absence rate has not varied much since 2006/07 but is at its highest since records began - 1.3%.

This is due to an increase in absence due to family holidays not agreed by schools.

Authorised absence

The authorised absence rate has stayed at 3.4% since 2015/16 but has been decreasing in recent years within primary schools.

Total number of days missed

The total number of days missed for overall absence across state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased to 56.7 million from 54.8 million in 2015/16.

This partly reflects a rise in the total number of pupils with the average number of days missed per pupil slightly increased to 8.2 days from 8.1 days in 2015/16.

In 2016/17, 91.8% of primary, secondary and special school pupils missed at least 1 session during the school year - similar to the 91.7% figure from 2015/16.

Persistent absence

Persistent absentees

The overall absence rate for persistent absentees across all schools increased to 18.1% - nearly 4 times higher than the rate for all pupils. This is slightly up from 17.6% in 2015/16.

Illness absence rate

The illness absence rate is almost 4 times higher for persistent absentees at 7.6% compared to 2% for other pupils.

The persistent absence rate increased to and accounted for 37.6% of all absence - up from 36.6% in 2015/16 but still down from 43.3% in 2011/12.

It also accounted for almost a third (31.6%) of all authorised absence and more than half (53.8%) of all unauthorised absence.

Overall, it's increased across primary and secondary schools to 10.8% - up from 10.5% in 2015/16.

Reasons for absence

Illness

This is the main driver behind overall absence and accounted for 55.3% of all absence - down from 57.3% in 2015/16 and 60.1% in 2014/15.

While the overall absence rate has slightly increased since 2015/16 the illness rate has stayed the same at 2.6%.

The absence rate due to other unauthorised circumstances has also stayed the same since 2015/16 at 0.7%.

Absence due to family holiday

The unauthorised holiday absence rate has increased gradually since 2006/07 while authorised holiday absence rates are much lower than in 2006/07 and remained steady over recent years.

The percentage of pupils who missed at least 1 session due to family holiday increased to 16.9% - up from 14.7% in 2015/16.

The absence rate due to family holidays agreed by the school stayed at 0.1%.

Meanwhile, the percentage of all possible sessions missed due to unauthorised family holidays increased to 0.4% - up from 0.3% in 2015/16.

Regulation amendment

A regulation amendment in September 2013 stated that term-time leave could only be granted in exceptional circumstances which explains the sharp fall in authorised holiday absence between 2012/13 and 2013/14.

These statistics and data relate to the period after the Isle of Wight Council v Jon Platt High Court judgment (May 2016) where the High Court supported a local magistrates’ ruling that there was no case to answer.

They also partially relate to the period after the April 2017 Supreme Court judgment where it unanimously agreed that no children should be taken out of school without good reason and clarified that 'regularly' means 'in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school'.

Distribution of absence

Nearly half of all pupils (48.9%) were absent for 5 days or less across primary, secondary and special schools - down from 49.1% in 2015/16.

The average total absence for primary school pupils was 7.2 days compared to 16.9 days for special school and 9.3 day for secondary school pupils.

The rate of pupils who had more than 25 days of absence stayed the same as in 2015/16 at 4.3%.

These pupils accounted for 23.5% of days missed while 8.2% of pupils had no absence.

Absence by term

Across all schools:

Absence by pupil characteristics

The overall absence and persistent absence patterns for pupils with different characteristics have been consistent over recent years. Ethnic groups

Overall absence rate:

  • Travellers of Irish heritage and Gypsy / Roma pupils - highest at 18.1% and 12.9% respectively

  • Chinese and Black African ethnicity pupils - substantially lower than the national average of 4.7% at 2.4% and 2.9% respectively

Persistent absence rate:

  • Travellers of Irish heritage pupils - highest at 64%

  • Chinese pupils - lowest at 3.1%

Free school meals (FSM) eligibility

Overall absence rate:

  • pupils known to be eligible for and claiming FSM - higher at 7.3% compared to 4.2% for non-FSM pupils

Persistent absence rate:

  • pupils known to be eligible for and claiming FSM - more than double the rate of non-FSM pupils

Gender

Overall absence rate:

  • boys and girls - very similar at 4.7% and 4.6% respectively

Persistent absence rate:

  • boys and girls - similar at 10.9% and 10.6% respectively

National curriculum year group

Overall absence rate:

  • pupils in national curriculum year groups 3 and 4 - lowest at 3.9% and 4% respectively

  • pupils in national curriculum year groups 10 and 11 - highest at 6.1% and 6.2% respectively

This trend is repeated for the persistent absence rate.

Special educational need (SEN)

Overall absence rate:

  • pupils with a SEN statement or education healthcare (EHC) plan - 8.2% compared to 4.3% for those with no identified SEN

Persistent absence rate:

  • pupils with a SEN statement or education healthcare (EHC) plan - more than 2 times higher than pupils with no identified SEN

Absence for 4-year-olds

The overall absence rate decreased to 5.1% - down from 5.2% for the previous two years.

Absence recorded for 4-year-olds is not treated as authorised or unauthorised and only reported as overall absence.

Pupil referral unit absence

The overall absence rate increased to 33.9% - up from 32.6% in 2015/16.

The persistent absence rate increased to 73.9% - up from 72.5% in 2015/16.

Regional and local authority (LA) breakdown

Overall absence and persistent absence rates vary across primary, secondary and special schools by region and local authority (LA).

Overall absence

Similar to 2015/16, the three regions with the highest rates across all school types were:

  • North East - 4.9%

  • Yorkshire and the Humber - 4.9%

  • South West - 4.8%

Meanwhile, Inner and Outer London had the lowest rates at 4.4%.

Persistent absence

The region with the highest persistent absence rate was Yorkshire and the Humber with 11.9% while Outer London had the lowest rate at 10%.

Help and support

Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics

Official statistics

These are Official Statistics and have been produced in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

Contact us

Ask questions and provide feedback

If you have a specific enquiry about Pupil absence in schools in England statistics and data:

School absence and exclusions team

Email
schools.statistics@education.gov.uk

Telephone: Sean Gibson
0370 000 2288

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone
020 7783 8300

Public enquiries

If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

Telephone
037 0000 2288