New data shows that 17 per cent of pupils in Wiltshire schools were recorded as persistently absent as of February.

This equates to 7,910 pupils out of 46,595 across the county.

The data has been gathered from the Department for Education’s Wonde platform, which has been collecting daily attendance data since 2022 from schools that have agreed to share this information.

Although this means the numbers are not fully verified, the Department for Education says the platform will help improve attendance by identifying trends and pupils who need support.

At Wiltshire Council’s Children’s Select Committee meeting on Tuesday, March 13, councillors were presented with the data from the current academic year, up to Friday, February 23.

It showed that 17 per cent of pupils in Wiltshire were recorded as persistently absent, compared to 20.6 per cent of pupils at a national level.

1.8 per cent of Wiltshire pupils were recorded as severely absent, which corresponds to 862 children.

Pupils who have missed more than 10 per cent of school sessions – with one session counting as a morning or afternoon spent in school - are considered persistently absent, whilst children who have missed more than 50 per cent of school sessions are considered severely absent. 

Overall, Wiltshire schools had an attendance rate of 93.4 per cent, compared to 93 per cent at a national level.

Whilst attendance performance in the county compares positively with regional and national benchmarking, the rate remains lower than before the pandemic, when it was at 95.28 per cent.

Illness remains the main reason given for pupils’ absences from school, which is the case nationally as well as in Wiltshire.

The live data also showed  that SEND pupils with an Education, Health and Care plan, had an overall attendance of 86.9 per cent.

The Department for Education recently published updated attendance guidance for schools, which includes the expectation that schools will inform a pupil’s youth justice service worker of any unexplained absences.

Kathryn Davies, Wiltshire Council’s Interim Director for Education and Skills, said: “Although performance-wise, comparatively, we’re looking strong in Wiltshire, we are not complacent, because those attendance rates are not – in the same way as they are not nationally – as high as they were pre-pandemic.”

The Department for Education is due to publish the next full set of verified attendance data this month.