Pupil absences at state-funded Jewish secondary schools were generally higher than the national average during the last full academic year, figures obtained by Jewish News reveal.
Department for Education statistics show an average of 3.4 percent absence recorded as authorised and 1.3 unauthorised across years seven to 11 in 3,400 government maintained secondary schools in England during the 2020/21 school year.
A Freedom of Information request sent to Jewish state secondaries in the wake of the government’s new Schools Bill, unveiled last month in the Queen’s Speech, shows them broadly lagging behind the national average on attendance.
Six Jewish schools, Yavneh College, JCoSS, JFS, King Solomon High School and Hasmonean Boys’ and Girls’ schools had higher authorised absences (AA) in 2020/21 than the 3.4 percent national average.
Yavneh College was twice as high at 6.8 percent, JCoSS at 5.0 percent, JFS 3.38 percent, King Solomon High School 4.44 percent, Hasmonean Boys’ school 4.63 percent and Hasmonean Girls’ school 4.01 percent.
Three Jewish state schools had unauthorised absences (UA) above the national average of 1.3 percent. JFS was 3.71 percent, King Solomon High School 3.46 percent and Hasmonean Boys’ school 1.80 percent.
Hasmonean Girls’ school at 1.29 percent, JCoSS at 0.9 percent and Yavneh College at 0.42 percent were below the UA average.
King David High School in Liverpool did not provide figures.
Six Jewish schools, Yavneh College, JCoSS, JFS, King Solomon High School and Hasmonean Boys’ and Girls’ schools had higher authorised absences (AA) in 2020/21 than the national average.
After analysing the numbers, one leading Jewish educator emphasised that unauthorised absence does not necessarily mean truancy but rather covers a range of circumstances. He added: “There is also an element of discretion in how schools code absences, so it is risky to compare one school with another or with national figures.
“Truancy rates is an outdated and imprecise term. Does it mean wilful non-attendance or simply unauthorised absence which includes everything from occasions when a parent forgot to write a note, to emergency term-time visits to dying relatives in Israel? Or does it mean parents keeping their children at home due to covid anxiety, or home schooling absence?”
The academic year 2020/21 was dramatically impacted by the pandemic with full closures and phased returns until the spring. These numbers do not include forced absence due to Covid.
After reviewing the figures Rabbi David Meyer, chief executive of Partnerships for Jewish Schools, said: “Attendance at school is an essential aspect in the education of children and repeated absences can significantly impact on student progress. Small variances are to be expected, however parents are primarily responsible for their child’s attendance and these figures do underscore the essential role that parents play in the education of their children.”
The government unveiled its new Schools Bill in last month’s Queen’s Speech, under which England’s schools would be required to publish an attendance policy and maintain a compulsory register for children who are not in classrooms so authorities can identify those not receiving full-time education.
The bill also aims to crack down on truancy, beef up the powers of education watchdogs and reform the funding system in new legislation to create “a school system that works for every child”.
Education Secretary Nadim Zahawi said: “These measures will ensure pupils benefit from every possible hour in the classroom and will create a school system that works for every child, parent and family, bringing every school up to our current best standards.
“We are determined to raise standards in our schools so every child has access to the same opportunities wherever they live, and our brilliant teachers are supported to do what they do best, which is why we’re putting our education ambition into law.”
He added: “By giving every child a good education, we’re giving them the opportunity to thrive so they can reach their full potential and secure the jobs needed, this is absolutely vital to our levelling up mission.”
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