Q. The DfE school tables now show absence levels twice: up to May half-term and again up to the end of July. Why is this?


A. From the school year 2012-13, the DfE has collected data through the Census right up to end of July – six half-terms. All previous absence data had only ever been to the end of May – in other words, five half-terms.

The intention is to make sure that absences in the sixth half-term are not being overlooked, although so far the figures suggest there is very little difference between the two. But when making comparisons with previous years, make sure you are using the same counting period. Both figures have been published this year, but, as the July figures gradually take over, this may not be the case in future. Note that this data only relates to Years 1-11: data has been collected for Reception years, but is not included in the official school figures as not all pupils will be of compulsory school age. Similarly, sixth-formers are not included. (There has been no extension of ‘compulsory school age’).

It is important to be clear that Year 11s cannot ‘leave school’ until the last Friday in June, even though, for Year 11s only, the DfE has to date collected absence data only up to the May half-term, as in the past. However, the registers must still be marked right up to the leaving date. For some schools, this can result in large numbers of absences if no study programme is provided after the examinations. These absences may not currently show up in the data, but this approach is increasingly less appropriate given the expectation of further participation beyond Year 11. This time could be used for induction activity for the sixth form, other short courses or work experience. It may be that the DfE will, in future, collect data up to the end of June. If nothing is provided, all these pupils will be ‘persistent absentees’!

Just to add to the mix, Ofsted places most emphasis on the RAISEonline data, which only covers up to Easter (so that it is available more quickly). It is probably best to have all three figures to hand (Easter, May and July) in order to be able to compare trends over time.


First published on this website in September 2014.

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About Author

Ben Whitney

Ben Whitney is an independent education welfare consultant and trainer, with over 20 years’ experience in attendance management for two local authorities. He is the author of several books on both attendance and child protection. More information on his current training and consultancy services can be found at www.ben-whitney.org.uk.

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