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Pupils: Absenteeism

Volume 488: debated on Wednesday 25 February 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families if he will change the formula for calculating attendance statistics for schools to prevent schools being penalised in the event of pupils not attending as a result of adverse weather conditions. (256501)

The Government believe that every lesson counts and it is right that schools should stay open wherever reasonably practicable during severe weather conditions, subject to health and safety considerations. If some of a school's pupils whose home is not within walking distance of the school get to school by transport that is provided by the school or a local education authority, and that transport is not available because of adverse weather conditions, then if the school stays open, those pupils should be marked using code Y (forced and partial closure). Code Y does not count as absence in the statistics. All other children should be expected to attend and should be recorded as present/absent as normal. Our data do not enable us to alter the formula in any way that would isolate the absences due to inclement weather, or even the days concerned—we only have total numbers of absences for each term and cannot isolate particular days (or even weeks). This does mean that the absence percentage for a school that stays open may be higher than if it had closed if significant numbers of pupils are unable to attend. However, our main focus is on persistent absence (which we define as missing 20 per cent. or more of possible sessions). It is unlikely that persistent absence would be significantly affected by short periods of adverse weather. Moreover when looking at attendance, Ofsted inspectors look at trends over time. When looking at registers, if there appear to be specific days or periods of time when there is high absence inspectors will discuss with the school the reasons for it. Similarly the national strategies will take account of such circumstances in their support and challenge work on persistent absence with LAs and schools.