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"Bradford and Keighley a truancy hotspot"
Bradford district is Yorkshire’s truancy hotspot as new figures show pupils missed more than 130,000 school sessions for unauthorised reasons during the spring term.
Statistics published by the Department for Education show 1.6 per cent of students were absent from classes at state-funded primary and secondary schools in the local authority area without a valid reason - the highest percentage in the county, which has an average unauthorised absence rate of 1.1 per cent.
Extended family holidays, children playing truant and parents taking their children shopping for the day all contributed to the high figures in Bradford, according to one union boss.
More than 49,000 primary school sessions in the district were missed during the spring term, while secondary school students skipped 82,269 classes.
Councillor Ralph Berry, Bradford Council executive member for education, pledged to tackle the problem.
“I do know we have been tightening up the recording of absences, which inevitably means we find more of it, but we will be taking every step to address it,” he said.
"We need to work with parents to highlight the damage caused by not taking their children to schools.”
From next month, head teachers will be able to issue parents with a £60 spot fine if they allow children to miss too much school – up from the previous £50 penalty.
The Government also plans to toughen up the rules on term-time holidays so schools are permitted to allow them only in ‘exceptional circumstances’.
But Coun Berry said it was important for parents to be educated, rather than punished.
Stuart Herdson, of the Association of Teachers and Learners, spoke out against “extended” truancy.
“Sometimes it’s children missing school without the knowledge of their parents and sometimes it’s parents taking their children out of school to buy a new pair of shoes,” he said.