There are three points to make about yesterday's dire truancy statistics (see DCSF stats release here).
First, as the chart shows, overall truancy has continued to climb. The percentage of half days missed due to unauthorised absence in primary, secondary and special schools in England increased from 0.92% in 2005-06 to an all-time high of 1% in 2006-07. A decade ago it was 0.73%.
The picture in secondary schools is even worse, with a truancy rate last year hitting another all-time high of 1.5% compared to 1% a decade ago. That's a 50% increase under education-education-education Labour.
Second, this has all happened despite the government's much vaunted £1.5bn anti-truancy programme, already heavily criticised by the NAO and PAC (see this blog). The stated aim was to reduce truancy by one-third: the outcome has been an increase of one-third. The money has simply been wasted.
Third, truancy gets much worse as pupil age increases. By Year 11 (15-16 year olds), the truancy rate is over 2.5%:
The chart highlights that while most children will accept primary schooling, once they get into their teens at secondary school they can kick against the whole idea of compulsory schooling. And the older they get, the more likely they are to behave accordingly.
Which is why so many teachers are so concerned about the government's plan to raise the leaving age to 18. It's not just the cost, but the fact that teachers struggling to contain disengaged disruptive 17 year olds simply cannot focus on their real job (see this blog).