Around 50,000 children in the most deprived areas of England are missing an average of one day a week of school – more than five times the proportion of the richest areas.
6.1% of children living in the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods were classed as ‘persistent absentees’ because they missed at least a fifth of school, compared with just 1.2% of children living in the 10% richest neighbourhoods.
Michael Gove, the Shadow Children’s Secretary, said that these figures show that "the problem is concentrated in the most deprived neighbourhoods". "We need to focus on these areas, giving extra money to schools that take children from the most deprived backgrounds", he said, "so that we can give these children the opportunities which others take for granted".
The figures, which include a local authority breakdown, come despite Government warnings to schools that they must focus on attendance because the link with achievement is strong, as pupils persistently absent are more likely to engage in anti-social behaviour, youth crime, teen pregnancy and drug and alcohol abuse.
The Government has spent at least £1.4bn on initiatives related to reducing truancy that have proved unsuccessful.
Gove added that attendance at school is "absolutely vital" if children are going to get the education they need to succeed later on. "Children that are missing a fifth of school inevitably struggle to keep up, which leads to problems with low achievement and poor behaviour down the line", he added.