PERSISTENT school absence rates have almost tripled over the last six years across Barnsley.

New figures show 736 pupils missed half their lessons during autumn and spring terms in 2022/23 compared to 250 in 2016/17.

The figures also show that 1,046 children in Barnsley will miss half their time at school by 2026 if rates of pupils skipping classes continues.

A Labour Party plan to reverse the trend includes the creation of a new register of home-schooled pupils to keep track of those not in mainstream schooling as part of a new package of measures to get to grips with persistent non-attendance and restore public trust in schools.

Wentworth and Dearne MP, John Healey, said: “We all know how important it is for children to be in school but persistent absence rates are spiralling out of control.

“It’s shocking to see that absence figures have almost tripled in the last six years across Barnsley with children missing out on vital time in the classroom.

“The Conservatives have allowed this to happen on their watch and have no plan to get youngsters back in lessons with figures predicted to rise even higher in the future.

“Labour’s long-term plan will tackle the reasons children are out of class, with mental health counselling, breakfast clubs and a register of home-schooled children, funded by ending tax breaks for private schools.”

Department for Education figures show Barnsley Council handed out 3,137 penalties to parents and guardians for their child’s persistent absence in the 2022/23 academic year.

Of them, 2,862 - 91 per cent - were issued due to pupils being taken out of school for holidays.

It is up from 1,677 the year before and the highest on record since 2016/17.

Penalty notices are handed to a guardian if a child frequently misses school and costs either £60 if paid within 21 days of receipt or £120 thereafter.

If it is not paid in four weeks, the local authority must either prosecute or withdraw the notice.

Coun Trevor Cave, cabinet spokesperson for children’s services, added: “We are committed to ensuring that every child in our borough receives the education they deserve to succeed so that they are able to access the opportunities presented through Barnsley being the place of possibilities.

“It can feel hard to catch up and for some children it can be challenging to settle back into school when attendance is inconsistent or disrupted.

“In line with the national protocol, and our local authority code of conduct, money raised via school absence penalties is only used by the Barnsley Council to cover the costs of administering the system.”