Pupils: Absenteeism

Mrs Main: To ask the Secretary of State for Education how many unauthorised school absences there have been in (a) St Albans constituency, (b) Hertfordshire, (c) the East of England and (d) the UK since 2010; and what steps he is taking to reduce such absences. [195130]

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Elizabeth Truss: The Department for Education publishes statistics on England only. Information on unauthorised pupil absence in St Albans constituency has been provided in the following table. Pupil absence rates at regional and local authority level are available in the local authority tables in the absence statistical first release for each year1.

We know from evidence that pupils who have regular attendance at school are four times more likely to achieve five or more A*-C grades at GCSE including English and maths than those pupils who are persistently absent2. This is why the Department for Education reduced the threshold at which pupils are classified as being persistently absent, from 20 to 15% of school missed. This measure enables schools to identify earlier those pupils with troubling attendance patterns, and to do something about them.

In 2012, we increased the level of the school attendance penalty fines of £50 and £100 to £60 and £120 respectively; and in 2013 reduced the overall timescales for paying fines from 42 to 28 days. Our reforms are working. In 2012/13 persistent absence was 300,895 pupils—a fall of almost a third from 2010. 130,000 fewer pupils are now persistent absentees.

1 https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/statistics-pupil-absence

2 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/183445/DFE-RR171.pdf

State-funded primary, state-funded secondary and special schools1, 2, 3, 4: unauthorised absence rates5, academic years 2009/10 to 2012/13
St Albans parliamentary constituency
 Unauthorised absence rate5









1 Includes middle schools as deemed. 2 Includes primary academies, including free schools. 3 Includes city technology colleges and all secondary academies, including free schools, university technical colleges and studio schools. 4 Includes maintained special schools, non-maintained special schools and special academies. Excludes general hospital schools, independent special schools and independent schools approved for SEN pupils. 5 The number of sessions missed due to unauthorised absence expressed as a percentage of the total number of possible sessions. Source: School Census

Schools: Discipline

Simon Kirby: To ask the Secretary of State for Education what recent steps he has taken to integrate better into schools children with challenging behaviour; and if he will make a statement. [195367]

Elizabeth Truss: I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply given to him on 8 October 2013, Official Report, column 257W.

Since October, we have updated our advice on behaviour to re-emphasise the need for clear rewards and sanctions. We have outlined a range of sanctions that it is permissible for teachers to use to tackle challenging behaviour when it occurs. We have also been clear that schools should use rewards to praise and reinforce good behaviour.

In addition, we have produced a range of case studies showing good practice in how schools manage behaviour and bullying. The case studies provide examples of

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what effective schools do to integrate children with challenging behaviour into the school ranging from support through schools' pastoral systems to using art and modified curricula to support the inclusion of pupils with behaviour difficulties.

The new special educational needs (SEN) Code of Practice makes it clear that, while persistent disruptive or withdrawn behaviour does not necessarily mean that a pupil has SEN, schools should determine whether there are any causal factors, such as undiagnosed learning difficulties, difficulties with communication or mental health issues, so that support can be put in place for the pupil to stay at the school and make progress.

Social Work: Pilot Schemes

Tim Loughton: To ask the Secretary of State for Education what progress he has made on the Social Work Practice pilots; and which local authorities are taking part in those pilots. [195603]

Mr Timpson: The Social Work Practices pilot concluded in 2012. In November last year the Government commenced Part 1 of the Children and Young Persons Act 2008 to allow all local authorities to explore new models of provision if they wish to.

Special Educational Needs

Simon Kirby: To ask the Secretary of State for Education what steps his Department takes to support parents whose children attend a school in special measures; and if he will make a statement. [195152]

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Mr Timpson: The Government are clear that the best way forward for any school judged inadequate by Ofsted is for it to become an academy with the support of a strong sponsor. We consider that sponsored academy arrangements will safeguard the long-term future of such schools and will secure rapid and sustained improvement, which should reassure parents.

Water: Safety

Karen Lumley: To ask the Secretary of State for Education if he will bring forward proposals to amend the national curriculum to require the teaching of water safety in schools. [195297]

Mr Timpson: The Government are committed to ensuring that swimming and teaching water safety takes place in schools. Swimming is an important part of the National Curriculum, which requires that all pupils must be taught to swim at least 25 metres unaided, and be able to use recognised swimming strokes by the end of Key Stage 2 (age 11). It also requires that a child can demonstrate an understanding of water safety. Swimming and water safety remain compulsory in the National Curriculum following the recent curriculum review.

In March 2013 the Prime Minister announced additional ring-fenced funding of £150 million per year for each of 2013-14 and 2014-15 to support the provision of PE and sport in primary schools. This funding was extended in the autumn statement 5 December 2013, Official Report, columns 1101-1113, to include 2015-16. Qualifying schools would be free to use this to extend their pupils' access to swimming lessons and water safety awareness.