THE number of youngsters in Sunderland who regularly skip school is higher than the national average, according to latest figures.
The percentage of persistent absentees in the country’s schools is 6.1 per cent, Government statistics show. However, the figure for Wearside is 7.2 per cent.
In South Tyneside, 7.2 per cent of pupils frequently miss school, while in County Durham the figure is six per cent.
The statistics, for the academic year 2010/11, were revealed by the Department of Education, and the North East was among the worst areas.
In Sunderland, the percentage of persistent absentees in primary schools is 4.5 per cent, while it is 9.9 per cent in secondaries.
In Durham, it is 3.9 per cent in primary and 8.2 per cent in secondary and for South Tyneside the numbers were 4.6 per cent of primary children and 9.4 per cent in secondary.
Nationally, the percentage of persistent absentees was 3.9 per cent for primary and 8.4 per cent for secondary.
The statistics for the 2010/11 school year also showed that nationally children on free school meals, or those with special educational needs, were around three times more likely to be persistently absent.
Mike Johnson, Sunderland area representative on the National Association of Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers, said: “Where you have higher levels of social deprivation then you have higher truancy rates.”
Sunderland Council leader Paul Watson said: “Absenteeism from school is a national issue which we are all working hard to address. Truancy is often linked with issues outside of school, so it is important that we work with our partners to identify any families who may need our help to ensure their son or daughter’s long-term attendance.
“We all recognise how important it is for children and young people to have a consistent and uninterrupted education, and we hope that with the continued support of parents we can work with schools to further reduce absenteeism.”
Newcastle and Middlesbrough were both in the top 10 areas for persistent absentees, with 8.8 per cent.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said persistent absence is a serious problem and that much of the work children miss when they are off school is never made up, which leaves them at a disadvantage to their peers.
He said: “The effect that poor attendance at school can have on a child’s education can be permanent and damaging. Children who attend school regularly are four times more likely to achieve five or more good GCSEs, including English and maths, than those who are persistently absent.”