ABSENCE rates at Isle of Wight schools — once the worst in the country — have started to improve, according to the Isle of Wight Council.
Figures published last autumn revealed that in 2011-12 the secondary school absence rate was 8.6%, compared to 5.9% nationally.
The persistent absent rate, for those who missed 15% or more school, was 13.6% compared to the national average of 7.4%.
But efforts to tackle the issue have started to work, the council said today (Monday).
Between September and December 2013 primary school attendance rose to 96.39%, a 2% increase compared to the same period in 2012 and above the national average.
Secondary school attendance rose almost 3%, to 94.2%, in line with the national average.
Persistent absence in primary schools was almost halved, falling to 3.14%, and in secondary schools, the persistent absence rate fell from 11.4% in 2012 to 7% in 2013 for the same period.
Nationally, tougher fines have been introduced and more than 320 Islanders have been hit with £60 penalties for unauthorised absences.
On the Island, steps have included parent meetings, strengthened education welfare and more staff training. A nurse is due to be appointed this year to help families manage absence due to long-term illnesses.
Council cabinet member for children’s services Cllr Richard Priest said exam performance was linked to attendance and improvements needed to continue.
He said: "I think the figures show that parents and schools are working better together and we need to build on this for the future, and continue to explain to children and young people the importance of going to school.
"Support is available for families if problems are identified early and shared with schools.
"Schools are to be congratulated for their work in this area and are being supported by measures recently brought in by the council and its strategic partner Hampshire County Council to tackle absences in schools. These include more training of school staff, the setting up of parental meetings when attendance levels drop below a certain level and strengthening the education welfare service."