Business leaders fear Doncaster’s school truants are jeopardising their futures as new figures reveal more than one in 20 youngsters are regularly skipping classes.
Department for Education statistics reveal that Doncaster has some of the highest levels of unauthorised absences at both primary and secondary level - although they are lower than Rotherham, Barnsley and Sheffield.
They reveal a total of six per cent of pupils persistently do not turn up to school, compared with the national average of 5.4 per cent
And these figures are reflecting on the calibre of school leavers looking for work in the town according to a leading businessman.
Phil Harris, chief executive of Doncaster Chamber said: “We have a lot of concern from our members about the quality and approach of children who are not really work ready when they leave school.
“There has to be a statistical link between the less time spent at school and how that reflects on your ability, but it’s not particularly truancy, it’s the overall quality and employability, attitude of children.
“This has been going on for a long time, decades, but more businesses are becoming more vocal about it, maybe because the economy is improving and they are noticing it more.”
Eleanor Brazil, director of the Children and Young People’s Service at Doncaster Council, defended the borough’s record on truancy, and warned parents who do not get their children into the classroom will be taken to court.
She said: “In Doncaster we are tackling absence by working in partnership with schools and families.
“We provide casework, attendance initiatives, review school systems, conduct parent meetings in school, we offer a presence at parents evenings and carry out direct work with children and young people.
“We also advise schools on improving their systems and support them in challenging absence.
“Where parents or carers do not work with us to improve attendance we will use sanctions such as fixed penalty notices and prosecutions. We are pleased to have the lowest levels of persistent absence in South Yorkshire but will continue to challenge absence robustly in order to improve further.”
The DfE figures show that more than one in 100 lessons in Yorkshire were missed by primary and secondary pupils through absences that had not been approved by headteachers.
There were also more than 35,000 pupils who were persistently absent from school - missing 15 per cent or more of their lessons.
Ministers have this week warned that these youngsters are four times less likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs than those who are regularly in school.
The latest figures come as the Government has toughened up the guidance to schools and councils on allowing pupil absence.
In the past heads had the discretion to give parents up to ten days of absence during term time.
In August, however, the DfE said that schools should only give permission for absence during school in “exceptional circumstances.”
Last year the DfE also increased the amount parents could be fined for truancy from £50 to £60, and from £100 to £120 if the fine was not paid within 28 days.
Education Minister Elizabeth Truss said: “It is vital all children attend as much school as possible. That is why we have increased fines for truancy and encouraged schools to tackle persistent absence at an earlier stage. We know that poor attendance can have a hugely damaging effect on a child’s education. Children who attend school regularly are four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs than those who are persistently absent.”