Islington has highest rate of state school truants in London

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Islington Town Hall. Image: Laura Nolte
Islington Town Hall. Image: Laura Nolte
Islington Town Hall. Image: Laura Nolte

Children from Islington are regularly skipping school more than pupils from any other borough in London, the government revealed this week.

More than 1,000 children in borough are categorised as “persistent absentees”, meaning they miss at least 15 per cent of their lessons, the equivalent of 23 full school days a year.

This is 5.8 per cent of all pupils from Islington who attend state run schools. By comparison, the London average for persistent absenteeism is 4.5 per cent.

While the rate is much lower for primary than secondary school children, at 4.1 per cent, this is still far higher than the city’s rate of 3.1 per cent. This equates to more than 400 pupils in the borough missing a number of sessions defined as unacceptable by government guidelines.

Islington’s ranking for persistent absenteeism in the region has also slipped badly.

In 2009-2010 the borough was doing better than Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea, Lewisham, Southwark, Barking and Dagenham and Croydon.

Islington Arts and Media School was the borough’s worst school for absence. Almost 13 per cent, 89 of their 699 pupils, were classed as persistent absentees.

They are closely followed by City of London Academy in Islington, who recorded just over 12 per cent of their 683 children as absent.

Despite the overall trend, principal Mark Emmerson said the school had been getting better. He said: “Absenteeism has been a historic problem at our school but we have made significant improvements over the years.

“There are issues with deprivation and chronic illness that affect our ward in particular, but we realise we have to improve. Although we need to support parents, it’s also important to realise that ultimately it’s their responsibility to get their children to school.”

The worst junior school in the borough, Laycock Primary School, had 37 of their 329 pupils classed as persistent absentees.

Islington Now approached the school but deputy head Mark Dally declined to comment following advice from Islington Council.

The second worst primary school was St Mary’s CofE School, where 6.5 per cent of all lessons were missed. Of just 157 pupils, 13 were persistent absentees.

A spokesperson for St Mary’s said: “We’re well aware of the problem and we are trying to deal with it. We have no further comment to make.”

Not every school in Islington is struggling. At the largest secondary school in the borough, Highbury Grove, just 0.1 per cent of lessons were missed through unauthorised absence.

The Department for Education’s guidelines on attendance put the onus on schools to deal with the issue of persistent absenteeism.

The guidelines state: “Schools should start to intervene well before the threshold is reached, but there are some that do not take action until pupils’ absence is near the persistently absent threshold – this it too late.”

On its website, Islington Council boasts “great schools, great children’s centres and great support for families”. Despite this, government data illustrates that the way it has been dealing with parents of regularly absent children stands in stark contrast with Haringey Council, which has achieved a much lower rate of persistent absenteeism.

Islington has preferred to fine parents, issuing 253 penalty notices last year compared to Haringey’s 22. The more successful borough has used many more “parenting contracts” and “fast track” case management schemes which require more time and effort in order to achieve results.

When questioned on whether or not they were doing enough to tackle the problem of persistent absence in the borough, Islington Council declined to comment.