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Last updated on 11 May 2018
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School-age pupils are persistent absentees if they miss 10% of sessions or more. Learn how to analyse your data and look at examples from schools on managing persistent absence.

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  1. Persistent absence threshold is 10%
  2. What inspectors consider
  3. Analysing your data
  4. Threshold does not apply to sixth forms
  5. Four-year-olds not included
  6. Taking early action

Persistent absence threshold is 10%

If a pupil's overall absence rate is 10% or higher, he/she is classified as a persistent absentee.

Pupils are classed as persistently absent based upon their individual absence level, not by a comparison to a national threshold.

The calculation for persistent absence is represented as:

The Key

See the Department for Education's (DfE) guidance on the 2018/19 school census, paragraph 5.8.8.

Worked example

Pupil A’s total number of possible sessions is 380. Over the course of the year, she misses 38 of these sessions.

(38 ÷ 380) x 100 = 10

Pupil A is classed as a persistent absentee as she has missed 10% of sessions.

What inspectors consider

Inspectors will evaluate attendance and punctuality as part of the key judgement 'Personal development, behaviour and welfare', focusing on:

  • Overall absence and persistent absence rates for all pupils, and for different groups in relation to national figures for all pupils
  • How far low attenders are improving their attendance over time and whether attendance is consistently low (in the lowest 10%)
  • Punctuality in arriving at school and at lessons

This is explained in paragraph 174 of the Ofsted inspection handbook:

Read more about how inspectors evaluate pupils' attendance.

Analysing your data

Compare your data to the national picture

Find out whether your levels of persistent absence are above or below average, in comparison to DfE data.

See most recent full-year statistics on persistent absence in the table below. 

The figures indicate the percentage of all pupils on roll who are persistent absentees.

  Full year 2016/17
Primary schools 8.3
Secondary schools 13.5
Special schools 28.5

The data is taken from table 1.2 of the following spreadsheet:

Calculate persistent absence as a proportion of all absence

  1. Identify persistent absentees
  2. Identify the total number of sessions missed by persistent absentees
  3. Divide the number of sessions missed by persistent absentees by the number of all sessions missed by all pupils
  4. Multiply the number by 100

For example:

Persistent absentees at a school have missed a total of 200 sessions in one academic year.

Of these, 80 sessions were missed by pupils identified as having persistent absence.

(80 ÷ 200) x 100 = 40

Persistent absence as a proportion of overall absence in the school is 40%.

This approach was suggested by a representative from the statistics team at the DfE.

Threshold does not apply to sixth forms

The persistent absence threshold doesn't apply to sixth forms, according to the DfE.

However, some sixth forms do set minimum attendance requirements for their students.

School example

De Aston School in Lincolnshire has a sixth-form attendance policy as part of its school attendance policy. It explains on pages 4-5 that the minimum expected attendance is 90%.

On page 6 it outlines the sanctions that will apply when attendance drops below 90%. 

You can read these in the school's attendance policy, which you can download from the website below:

Four-year-olds not included

Data on four-year-olds isn't included in the official persistent absence figures reported, according to the DfE.

However, it does include data on overall absence for four-year-olds.

In 2016/17, four-year-olds missed 5.1% of sessions due to overall absence.

See table 7 of the spreadsheet above.

Taking early action

Some schools take action earlier, when pupils' attendance is not yet hitting the attendance threshold set by the DfE, but is at risk of worsening.

For example, The Polesworth School in Warwickshire sets an internal school target and takes action when a pupil's attendance falls below 92%.

Read on the school's website about how the school uses:

  • The local authority (LA)'s Attendance, Compliance, Enforcement (ACE) service
  • "Pre-legal" meetings
  • Fixed penalty notices

According to the school’s page on the DfE's schools comparison website, its persistent absence rate for 2016/17 is 11.2%, compared to a national average of 13.5%.

You can view this information in the 'Absence in 2016 to 2017' section on the following page:

Read more on issuing fixed penalty notices


Compare your school's attendance figures with national attendance rates in primary, secondary and special schools.

Download overall statistics on pupil absence and attendance from May 2010 onwards here:

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