Westminster schools truancy rate is lowest in England

WESTMINSTER’S secondary schools have the best attendance records in the country, say new figures.

The number of persistent absentees – those who miss one-fifth of classes – is just 2.1 per cent compared to the national average of 4.3 per cent.

The Department of Education figures take into account all types of authorised and unauthorised student absence in the 2009 Autumn and 2010 Spring terms.

Westminster North MP Karen Buck said: “I’m absolutely delighted by these figures that confirm what I would expect, which is that we have a long tradition of keeping children in schools.

“This is consistent with the increase in good exam results we have seen in recent years.

“The two things go closely together. A happy school is one that has pupils who have a good academic record and a school with a good academic record will likely keep its pupils.

“This is a real tribute to the headteachers and staff in Westminster’s schools.”

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Westminster’s figure of 2.1 per cent is far below the London 3.8 per cent average – as well as bettering neighbouring Camden at 3.3 per cent and Hammersmith and Fulham at 4.4 per cent.

But Ms Buck says there is still work to do for Westminster’s schools as long as there are people who regularly skip school. Almost 450 pupils are classed as persistent absentees in the borough.

“We can be very proud but also recognise that if you have even a couple of hundred young people out of school, they tend to be the people most at risk and we do have to do better,” she said.

Sophie Welch, assistant headteacher at St Augustine’s CE High School in Maida Vale, says attendance has steadily increased at the school over the past few years.

“We are obviously very pleased with the figures and it reflects a lot of the time, effort and support that goes into the pastoral systems in schools,” she said.

“We have had our Truancy Call system in place for about two years now and it’s fantastic.

“After morning registration, anyone who is not present gets an automated phone call home that repeats every hour. It means that we have a very reliable system and are quickly aware of people who should be here but aren’t.”

Cllr Nickie Aiken, Westminster Council’s children and young people’s boss, said: “These figures are extremely positive and we are delighted that all the hard work by schools, the council and parents has paid off.

“For each child who is persistently failing to attend lessons, the school and local education authority will implement a joint action plan to work with the family and this targeted approach means we are continuing to reduce Westminster’s truancy rate.”