A REPORT heard by a Neath Port Talbot scrutiny committee has shown a drop in pupils attendance across the borough over the last three years at both primary and secondary levels of education.
The figures that were presented to members at an education skills and wellbeing cabinet scrutiny board on July 6, were part of discussions around the performance of education and leisure services across Neath Port Talbot in the past year.
Figures showed that school attendance at Primary school level had fallen consistently over the last three years from 93.83% in 2020/21 to 91.18% in 2021/22 and further to 89.23% in 2022/23.
Similarly over the same time-frame secondary school levels of attendance had fallen from 92.51% in 2020/21 to 87.88% in 2021/22 and further to 85.52% in 2022/23.
These figures represent an almost 7% drop in secondary school attendance across the borough since the start of the pandemic, though members noted that absenteeism was not only a local issue but also a national one that impacted many parts of Wales.
Councillor Robert Wood said: “I know being a governor of a school that there is significant problems with absenteeism caused through Covid and things like that, but I think it’s more of a national problem than a county borough-wide problem.
“Obviously as time goes on we want to see the numbers improve, but for the time being I think it’s a case of we are going to have to play catch up and see what the outcomes are going down the line.”
The head of service also gave an additional overview of exclusions in the borough, which had also contributed to the attendance issues, describing Neath Port Talbot as having a high level of exclusions with 677 pupils receiving a fixed term exclusion this academic year.
This was said to equate to students missing approximately 3,200 days of learning, which had added to the issue with attendance. It was also acknowledged that there was a lot of work going on behind the scenes to improve attendance across Neath Port Talbot, with members reminded that there is not a “one size fits all solution” to the issue, and it would take time before improvements were seen.