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SCHOOL attendance rates in Wigan remain better than the national average, new figures released by the council show.

Absences from the borough’s schools, according to the latest data for 2010/11 published last month, were 6.1 per cent for secondary schools and 4.8 per cent for primaries.

This compares favourable to absence rates of 6.5 per cent and 5 per cent respectively across the whole of England. The overall truancy rates, including special schools, were 5.5 per cent for Wigan and 5.8 per cent for England.

The figures represent the number of half days missed as a percentage of the total school year, and include both authorised and unauthorised absences.

School attendance has once again been given national attention after a leading government advisor on behaviour in schools published a report suggesting parents of children who persistently truant should face harsher sanctions.

The report calls for extra emphasis to be given on ensuring younger children who are truanting are returned to the classroom, and suggests stopping truancy in primary school years will make children less likely to skip school when they reach their teenage years. The report also wants tougher rules to be put in place on parents taking children out of school to go on holiday, though it stopped short of calling for an outright ban on term-time holidays.

National figures suggest that around 400,000 children miss 15 per cent or more of school days, equivalent to a month off school each year.

Wigan Council applauded the work on attendance which has been done in the borough’s schools and vowed to do more to ensure all children receive their full education, saying young people who do not attend school will struggle throughout their lives through missing out on parts of their learning.

The council has now set up the new Gateway Service to take over the work of the Education Welfare Service, offering support and advice around attendance issues to young people and their parents throughout the borough.

Sue Astbury, head of service for Early Intervention & Prevention, said: “Wigan borough continues to perform well on school attendance. Figures show we are achieving better than the England average for both primary and secondary schools in the borough.

“It is well known that absence from school, even for short periods, can affect attainment and impact on pupils’ future, and as a council we work closely with schools to improve attendance.”