Rise in pupils off school during last week of term causes concern in Fife schools

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Increasing numbers of Fife pupils are being marked absent from school during the last week of term, The Courier can reveal.

New figured show attendance rates at primary and secondary school level during the last week of term have fallen in the kingdom over the past three years.

In secondary schools, attendance has dropped from 82.3% in the 2015/16 session to 77.3% in the 2017/18 session.

Over the same time frame it has fallen from 92.7% to 90.9% in primary schools.

It is thought many parents keep their children from school in the run-up to breaks because foreign holidays are cheaper in those weeks.

The council’s head of education and children’s services Peter McNaughton said such absences would not be condoned.

He said as a directorate, the team was consistently clear with parents and carers that every school day was both statutory and important.

He said: “Teachers plan a full range of lessons and educational activities up to the end of every term.

“Every day at school is of value to our young people. We want every child and young person to have full attendance, where at all possible.

“We do not condone unauthorised absences.”

Mr McNaughton said the council, when planning the annual school calendar, tried where possible to end a school session with a full school week to deter children being taken out of school for holidays.

“Head teachers monitor absences at a school level. Schools will follow up any attendance concerns with individual families, as appropriate,” he added.

Fife Liberal Democrat education spokesman James Calder said the trend is a cause for concern.

The Dunfermline South councillor said: “It is concerning that the levels of attendance levels in the final week of term have shown a consistent trend of reducing over the past three years both in primary and secondary schools.

“While in secondary some of this can be ascribed to the post-exam period for the senior years, it does show a worrying trend.”

Mr Calder said he was calling on Fife’s education and children’s services department to look into the possible causes and if necessary, take remedial action.

“Any time out of the classroom, unless necessary, is detrimental to our children’s education and it should be a priority to minimise this where possible,” he said.