Proposed Changes to the methodology of reporting Persistent Absence

Following the Statistical First Release of Pupil Absence Data for the Autumn and Spring Terms 2013/2014 the Department for Education is consulting on proposed changes to Persistent Absence reporting.

The Main Text accompanying the Statistical First Release of Pupil Absence data for the Autumn 2013 and Spring 2014 Terms, published on Wednesday 15 October 2014 proposes a number of changes in how absence data is reported.

The most significant change relates to the Persistent Absence Reporting Methodology.

The current methodology defines a Persistent Absence pupil as having 56 or more sessions of absence over 6 terms and consequently this does not always reflect an actual 15% of the total number of sessions each pupil enrolment may have.

The following are extracts from “Statistical First Release – Pupil absence in schools in England: Autumn 2013 and Spring 2014.” The whole document can be found here

The DfE is proposing:-

That persistent absence is now reported using a pupil level distribution, where a pupil enrolment is defined as a persistent absentee only if they miss 15 per cent or more of the actual total number of sessions available to them individually. This change has three main advantages:

1. The measure will be more robust to differences in the length of the academic year (or terms) either between years or within the same year but between different schools.

2. It will be a more transparent and fair measure where pupils can only be persistently absent if they miss 15 per cent of their own total number of sessions.

3. Persistent absentee figures will be calculated in a similar way to overall absence, comparing levels of absence against a pupil’s individual possible sessions.

Data on both the current and proposed persistent absence will also be published in the full year SFR in March and the interim autumn term absence in May 2015, so users can fully understand the differences.

Previously, persistent absentees have been identified using a threshold measure, this threshold is calculated by taking 15 per cent of the mode total number of possible sessions for all pupil enrolments. Since the number of sessions for individual pupils varies between schools, and pupils, we are proposing a new measure which will take this into account. Rather than using a standardised threshold measure, the proposed methodology uses a pupil’s actual possible sessions to calculate whether they are persistently absent. Formally, if a pupil's individual overall absence rate is greater than or equal to 15 per cent they will be classified as a persistent absentee:

This new measure will give a variety of advantages:

  • Be more sensitive to differences in the length of the academic year, either between years or within the same year but between different schools;
  • Be a more transparent and fair measure;
  • Be consistent with calculations for overall, authorised and unauthorised absence rates;
  • Allow the link between absence and attainment to be properly investigated as both will be derived at enrolment level.

A small minority of pupils, those with small numbers of possible sessions (eg. due to moving schools) could be classified as persistently absent when missing relatively few sessions. We are not adjusting our data to account for these pupils and will identify all enrolments, regardless of their possible sessions, with an overall absence rate of 15 per cent or higher as a persistent absentee.

The calculation for persistent absentee rate (the percentage of pupil enrolments that are persistently absent from a given group) will remain unchanged.

The DfE is inviting views on these proposed changes and the Department would be grateful if you could respond to this consultation by submitting comments to by 28 November 2014


Published: 21/10/2014
Audience: Headteachers, Attendance Leaders, Attendance Officers
Contact: Neil Hellewell

This item has been viewed 1443 times.