Academic year 2018/19

Pupil absence in schools in England


Headline facts and figures - 2018/19

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About these statistics

Most of the statistics and data cover the absence of pupils aged 5 to 15 in state-funded primary, state-funded secondary and special schools in England.

Separate data cover pupil referral units and 4 year old pupils.

The statistics and data are available at national, regional, local authority (LA) and school level and are used for policy development and as key indicators in school attendance policy.

Pupil absence rates

Overall absence

The overall absence rate has decreased slightly across state-funded primary, secondary and special schools combined between 2017/18 and 2018/19 driven by an decrease in the authorised absence rate. Illness remains the main driver of absence rates.

The overall absence rate decreased in primary schools from 4.2% in 2017/18 to 4.0% in 2018/19. In secondary schools the rate remained steady at 5.5%. In special schools the overall rate decreased slightly from 10.2% to 10.1%

Authorised absence

The authorised absence rate has declined from 3.5% in 2017/18 to 3.3% in 2018/19. This follows a period when the rate remained stable at 3.4% or 3.5% from 2013/14 to 2017/18.

Unauthorised absence

The unauthorised absence rate has remained the same in 2017/18 and 2018/19 at 1.4%. This is the highest rate since consistent data became available in 2006/07.

Total number of days missed

The total number of days missed for overall absence across state-funded primary, secondary and special schools has increased from 59.1 million in 2017/18 to 59.6 million in 2018/19.

This reflects a rise in the total number of pupils. The average number of days missed per pupil enrolment has remained steady at 8.4 days in both 2017/18 and 2018/19.

92.1% of primary, secondary and special school pupil enrolments missed at least 1 session in 2017/18, this fell slightly to 91.6% in 2018/19. (A session is a morning or afternoon.)

Persistent absence

The persistent absence rate decreased from 11.2% in 2017/18 to 10.9% in 2018/19.

The overall absence rate for persistent absentees was 19.1% in 2018/19. The rate for all pupils was 4.7%.

Persistently absent pupils accounted for 39.3% of all absence in 2018/19 (up from 38.5% in 2018/19).

Reasons for absence

Illness

Illness is the main driver of absence. Illness accounted for 54.7% of all absence in 2017/18, and 52.6% in 2018/19.

The illness absence rate has decreased from 2.6% of all possible sessions in 2017/18 to 2.5% in 2018/19.

Absence due to family holiday

The rate of authorised holiday absence has remained steady at 0.1% in both 2017/18 and 2018/19.

The rate of unauthorised holiday absence has also remained steady, at 0.4% in both 2017/18 and 2018/19.

The unauthorised holiday absence rate has increased gradually since 2006/07 (when it was 0.1%) but has remained at 0.4% since 2016/17 (when rounded to 1 decimal place). In contrast the authorised holiday absence rate dropped substantially between 2006/07 and 2013/14 and has remained steady at 0.1% since then.

The main statistics in this release relate to the period after the April 2017 Supreme Court judgement in the Isle of Wight Council v Jon Platt case. The Supreme Court unanimously agreed that no children should be taken out of school without good reason and clarified that 'regularly' attending means 'in accordance with the rules prescribed by the school'.

Absence due to other unauthorised reasons

The absence rate due to other unauthorised circumstances has increased from 0.8% in 2017/18 to 0.9% in 2018/19.

Number of days absent

Nearly half of all pupil enrolments (49.2%) were absent for 5 days or fewer across primary, secondary and special schools. 8.4% had no absence at all. 

4.7% of pupil enrolments had more than 25 days of absence in 2018/19, these pupils accounted for 25.8% of sessions missed.

The average total absence per pupil enrolment was 7.3 days in primary schools, 9.5 days in secondary schools and 17.8 days in special schools. Across primary, secondary and special schools the average was 8.4 days of absence.

Absence by pupil characteristics

Summary figures by the various pupil characteristics are provided below and are all for 2018/19.

Ethnic groups

Overall absence rate:

  • Traveller of Irish heritage pupils and Gypsy / Roma pupils had the highest overall absence rates at 18.0% and 12.6% respectively
  • Chinese and Black African ethnicity pupils had the lowest overall absence rates at 2.3% and 2.9% respectively
  • Ethnic groups with higher overall absence also show higher rates of persistent absence.

Free school meals (FSM) eligibility

Overall absence rate:

  • pupils known to be eligible for and claiming FSM had an overall absence rate of 7.5%, compared to 4.2% for non-FSM pupils

Persistent absence rate:

  • pupils known to be eligible for and claiming FSM had a persistent absence rate of 22.8% - more than double the rate of non-FSM pupils at 8.3%

Gender

Overall absence rate:

  • boys and girls - very similar at 4.8% and 4.6% respectively

Persistent absence rate:

  • boys and girls - similar at 11.1% and 10.6% respectively

National curriculum year group

Overall absence rate:

  • pupils in national curriculum year groups 3 and 4 had the lowest rates at 3.9%
  • pupils in national curriculum year groups 10 and 11 had the highest rates at 6.3% and 6.4% respectively (excluding pupils outside the normal year group structure).

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 had an overall absence rate of 8.7%, pupils with SEN support had a rate of 6.5%, pupils with no identified SEN had a rate of 4.3%

Persistent absence rate:

  • pupils with a SEN statement or education healthcare (EHC) plan had a persistent absence rate of 24.6% - more than two times higher than rate for pupils with no identified SEN (9.0%)

Absence for 4-year-olds

The overall absence rate for 4 year old pupil enrolments decreased slightly from 5.2% to 5.1%.

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 remained steady at 35.3% in 2017/18 and 2018/19.

The persistent absence rate decreased from 76.1% in 2017/18 to 74.6% in 2018/19.

Regional breakdown

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

Overall absence

The North East and Yorkshire and Humber regions had the highest rates of overall absence at 5.0%

The lowest rates were Outer London at 4.4% and Inner London at 4.5%.

Persistent absence

The region with the highest persistent absence rate was the North East at 12.1% while Outer London had the lowest rate at 9.9%.

Help and support

Methodology

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

National statistics

These accredited official statistics have been independently reviewed by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR). They comply with the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics. Accredited official statistics are called National Statistics in the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

Accreditation signifies their compliance with the authority's Code of Practice for Statistics which broadly means 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

Our statistical practice is regulated by the Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR).

OSR sets the standards of trustworthiness, quality and value in the Code of Practice for Statistics that all producers of official statistics should adhere to.

You are welcome to contact us directly with any comments about how we meet these standards. Alternatively, you can contact OSR by emailing regulation@statistics.gov.uk or via the OSR website.

Contact us

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
Contact name: Sean Gibson

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone: 020 7783 8300

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

Telephone: 037 0000 2288

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