One in six miss month of lessons at Islington school

�One in six pupils at an Islington school missed a month or more of lessons last year, according to new figures that lay bare the truancy and absence problem at the borough’s secondaries.

Five were above the London average for rates of pupils skipping at least a month of school time – called “persistent absentees” (PAs) – according to provisional figures.

The most startling shows 15.7 per cent of children were PAs –one in six and nearly double the London secondary school average of 8.2 – at Islington Arts and Media School (IAMS) in Turle Street, Finsbury Park.

Headteacher Diana Osagie said: “IAMS was graded by Ofsted in July as a good school with many outstanding features and good attendance to school is a priority for us as a learning community.

“We have increased our support to the parents of a minority of pupils who need to raise their attendance to school.”

The two academies also fared badly, with 12.6 per cent of pupils judged PAs at St Mary Magdalene Academy, in Liverpool Road, Holloway, and 11 per cent at City of London Academy Islington, in Prebend Street, Islington.

The Gazette obtained the breakdown for each school through a Freedom of Information request, after it was revealed in October that Islington as a whole has the worst persistent absence record in London.

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When primary schools are not counted, it is sixth-worst of 32 London boroughs - although the actual rate rises from 8.2 to 9.7 per cent.

Cllr Richard Watts, Islington Council’s executive member for schools and families, said: “We’re very concerned about any children not attending school on a regular basis and we’re working with schools where this is a specific problem.

“There’s a clear message to parents that children should only be off school if it’s absolutely necessary and we will take a very tough line where it is not, including prosecuting parents.”

The council issued 288 fines of up to �100 to parents last year and took 19 cases to court. A council spokeswoman added that unauthorised absences are not necessarily truancy - they could be unauthorised holidays - and that overall attendance has improved for the past five years.