THE number of students missing school without permission in York has more than doubled since before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, new figures show.

The Department for Education data shows 54,000 of 2.4 million school sessions were missed without authorisation by pupils in the city.

It meant children in the area had an unauthorised absence rate of 2.3 per cent in the last Spring term. In the 2018/19 spring term, the unauthorised absence rate was 1.1 per cent, meaning it has more than doubled during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nationally, 2.3 per cent of pupils missed school without permission in the spring, almost double the 1.2 per cent who were absent from lessons in 2018/19.

Every area in the country has seen the rate of unauthorised absences rise by more than 30 per cent since 2018/19.

Martin Kelly, corporate director of children and education at City of York Council, said the council is working alongside schools and agencies to support students.

Mr Kelly said: "Unauthorised absences in York schools have risen post-Covid, as they have across the country. The council continues to work with York Schools and Academies Board (YSAB) and directly with schools across the city to reverse this trend.

"Schools and other agencies are working to support students, parents and carers to improve attendance through approaches which recognise individual circumstances whilst reinforcing the many benefits of regular school attendance for the vast majority of children.”

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association for School and College Leaders (ASCL), said there are several complex factors causing rising absence rates.

They include mental health issues, exacerbated by the pandemic, a lack of support for children with special educational needs, with schools lacking resources to deal with them, and the cost-of-living crisis, with 30 per cent of children growing up in poverty, Ms McCulloch added.

The school day is split into a morning and afternoon session, with every child expected to attend all sessions.

The overall absence rate has also risen across the country, from 4.8 per cent in the 2018-19 spring term to seven per cent last year.

In York, 166,000 school sessions were missed in the latest spring term.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "The vast majority of children are in school and learning and we are taking action to increase attendance because it is vital for a child’s education, wellbeing and future life chances.

"We have expanded our attendance hubs, which will support over 400,000 pupils across 14 hubs and provided a toolkit for schools about communicating with parents on this issue.

"Our mentoring programme, delivered by Barnardo’s, sees trained mentors work directly with 1,665 persistently and severely absent children and their families to understand and overcome the barriers to attendance and support them back into school."