The government is losing its battle against truancy, it was claimed today.
The Public Accounts Committee published a report finding that unauthorised absences had increased despite significant investment after the figure had remained stable for many years.
The report highlights that truancy has increased to over 0.8 per cent of school days from around 0.75 per cent despite the Department for Education and Skills investing £885 million over seven years on initiatives aimed, at least partly, at reducing absence from schools.
Chair of the committee Edward Leigh slammed the findings as “alarming news”.
“Children who miss school, with or without their parents’ knowledge, are damaging themselves,” said Leigh.
“They are losing out massively on the education which they so sorely need to equip themselves for life. And children from deprived backgrounds are suffering a double disadvantage,” he added.
The report urges head teachers to create a “strong ethos” in their schools that reinforces the importance of attendance.
It suggests that problems with children’s or parents’ attitudes to education should be tackled immediately to prevent a pattern of absence becoming established.
It also recommends an alternative curriculum is introduced in secondary schools where pupils find academic subjects unattractive to engage them.