SCHOOL attendance in Caerphilly County Borough is below the Welsh average.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, attendance was at 94 per cent in secondary schools and 94.7 per cent in primary schools – this has since dropped to 88.2 per cent, as of autumn 2022.

The drop in attendance is believed to be due to illness, an increase in mental health issues and anxiety, and rescheduled family holidays.

By March 2023 attendance had risen slightly to 89.1 per cent, but was still marginally below the Wales-wide average of 89.5 per cent.

According to a council report, a culture change towards attendance since lockdown could also be a reason for the decrease.

Fixed penalty notices have been reintroduced by the council as a “last resort” for persistent absenteeism.

The council’s report states: “Pupils with poor attendance are more likely to fall behind with their work, have gaps in their learning, and therefore achieve lower examination results. This will affect their life chances for the future. We all have the responsibility to ensure that our pupils achieve the best start in life, so they can reach their full potential.”

The report also revealed a disproportionate low attendance amongst pupils receiving free school meals.

In April 2023, those receiving free school meals had an average attendance of 84.3 per cent, in comparison to the remainder of pupils’ attendance being 90.8 per cent.

The council has said improving pupils’ attendance is a priority as it is “an area of concern”. It is also part of its education strategy ‘pursuing excellence together’.

A report on attendance is to be presented to the council’s education scrutiny committee on Tuesday June 20.