Absence figures paint a grim picture for boys with problems

Boys in special schools are three times more likely to be excluded and are twice as likely to have unauthorised absence compared to girls say the latest figures from the Department for Education.

The latest data on absence in primary, secondary and special schools, city technology colleges and academies shows the overall absence rate continued its downward trend from 6.3% in 2007/08 to 5.1% in 2011/12. There has also been a decrease in persistent absentees.

However, the percentage of unauthorised absence in special schools has remained unchanged at around 2%, while the number of pupils in special schools increased from almost 71,000 in 2007/08 to over 73,700 in 2011/12.

In 2011/12, the number of persistent absentees, those having an overall absence rate of 15% or more, in special schools was 12,970: 9,385 boys and 3,585 girls.

The first indicator of students’ prospects

Absence rates are the first indicator of a student’s future life prospects:

  • Of pupils that miss 10-20% of school only 35% achieve five good GCSEs including English and mathematics.
  • Of those who miss 5% or less of school, 70% manage to achieve the same result.

The biggest predictor of HE participation is prior attainment, so absence rates directly impacts not only on higher education participation but also on the job and life prospects of these children.

Meanwhile, the number of boys applying for and attending higher education is dropping. According to the Ucas end of cycle report “If the acceptance rate for men was 100%, the resulting entry rate for men would still be below that of women.”

Absences down all round

  • Primary school absences decreased from 5.3% in 07/08 to 4.4% in 11/12
  • The decrease was even more marked in secondary school, going down by one fifth from 7.4% to 5.9%
  • and the smallest reduction came in Special schools, where absences dropped from 10.6% to 9.6%

Special school attendees account for more than 70,000 children: just over 1% of the 6,400,000 pupils enrolled in school in England in 2011/12.

Persistent absentees in special schools are responsible for around three out of every five absences in those schools compared to 20% and 25% in primary and secondary schools respectively.

The differences between boys and girls

There is little difference in absence between boys and girls in the 2011/12 data apart from one big exception in special schools.

When looking at persistent absentees, there are almost three times as many boys as girls in special schools. Absence rates are slightly higher for boys – 33% compared to 29.3% among girls. However, the proportion of absences that are unauthorised is twice as high among boys (34% of absences) as girls (17%).

Boys are:

  • Three times more likely to be excluded;
  • twice as likely to have unauthorised rather than authorised absence (among the general school population: 23.6% compared to 12.2%); and
  • have 21.2% of their unauthorised absence because of ‘other’ reasons compared to 9.9% for girls.

The main reasons for unauthorised absence are arriving late and family holiday not agreed. There is no difference by gender.

Special schools are the only schools which show this wide discrepancy.

One in seven special school pupils absent for more than 25 days

14% of special school pupils – just under one in seven – have absences of more than 25 days compared to 2.2% and 5.9% for primary and secondary schools respectively .

Among persistent absentees boys miss 34% of sessions and just over one in ten of those are unauthorised. Girls miss 29% of which only one in twenty are unauthorised.

Students with profound and multiple disabilities have the highest rate of absence at 13.6% but very low unauthorised absences at 0.7%.

The second highest absence rate, at 10.7%, comes among pupils with behaviour, emotional & social difficulties. They have the highest unauthorised absence at 3.9%. The data doesn’t include a breakdown by gender.

Here’s the data on absence – what can you do with it?

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