The rate of absences by school students in Worcestershire has risen substantially since the pandemic hit, new figures show.

Over the past four years, analysis figures from the Department for Education show 14,991 students in state-funded schools across Worcestershire missed a tenth or more of their lessons.

These students accounted for 20.8 per cent of the 72,143 students enrolled in the area during the 2022-23 academic year.

This is up significantly from 11 per cent in 2018-19, before the pandemic.

Across England, 1.6 million pupils were persistently absent, making up 21.2 per cent of students.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers, said: "School leaders and teachers are doing all they can to reverse the increase in pupils who are persistently absent post-pandemic, and we are pleased to see the number of children coming back into school is moving in the right direction.

"However, absence rates are still significantly higher than before Covid and much more needs to be done to bring them down."

In Worcestershire, 1,846,000 of 25,112,000 school sessions were missed.

Of these absences, 484,000 were unauthorised. Which is up from 1.1 per cent in 2018-19.

Nationally, the level of unauthorised absences almost doubled, from 1.4 per cent in 2018-19 to 2.4 per cent in the last academic year.

The Department for Education recently announced a series of measures as part of its drive to boost attendance after the pandemic, including increasing fines for parents taking children out of school without permission.

School absence fines for unauthorised absences currently start at £60, rising to £120 if they are not paid within 21 days. From this autumn, they will instead start at £80, rising to £160.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "If absence rates remain at these levels then the future prospects of thousands of young people are going to be jeopardised."

A Worcestershire County Council spokesperson said: “We know how important school attendance is to enable children to reach their full potential.

"We continue to work closely with education settings across the county to support pupils and parents, and where possible, remove any barriers preventing regular attendance.
"During the previous autumn term of 2023, we have been pleased to see improvements in Worcestershire’s overall attendance, compared to the same period of the preceding year. 
"Both schools and families are able to access our attendance helpline which is open between 9:00am to 4:30pm daily during term time."