One in six secondary students miss more than 20 days of school

Figures come as strike action looms

One in six secondary students miss more than 20 days of school

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Rates of non-attendance at secondary schools are getting worse, with an estimated 56,400 students missing out on a month of school annually.

An analysis by Tusla of school attendance data for the 2014/15 school year found that the absentee rate was 5.6% in primary schools and 7.7% at post-primary levels.

Both figures represent an increase of 0.2 percentage points in non-attendance rates over the previous school year.

The level of 20-day absences among students at secondary level was 16.2% — up from 15.4% in the previous school year.

Non-attendance rates are also notably higher among students living in cities and towns than those in rural areas.

At post-primary level, Wexford schools had the worst non-attendance rate at 10.4%, and schools in Louth and Meath the lowest at 6.7%.

There were among 176 parents who were summoned before the courts in 2015 due to the truancy of more than 100 children, resulting in 24 convictions to date. The number of summonses issued to date has increased five-fold since the first parents were jailed in two of 34 prosecutions in 2006.

Although the sentences can be for up to a month, in most cases, the parents are released after a day or two.

The figures were released as ASTI members have voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action.

Secondary schools could be closed within two weeks if teachers go ahead with their strike.

Minister for Education Richard Bruton said there is "cash on the table" to resolve the ASTI dispute and called the proposed industrial action "unnecessary".