MORE than 1,000 children were regularly missing from schools in Bracknell during the first two terms last year, figures reveal.

Across England, the rate of persistently absent pupils – those who miss at least 10 per cent of school time – dropped slightly, but only back to 2015-16 levels.

Department for Education data shows that 1,204 pupils at state primaries and secondaries in Bracknell Forest were classed as persistently absent in the autumn 2018 and spring 2019 terms – 8 per cent of those enrolled.

In secondary schools only, the figure climbs to 11 per cent.

READ THIS: Bracknell readers send in their pet stars for you to judge

The overall persistent absence rate dropped slightly, from 9 per cent in 2017-18, in line with the national trend.

It was also less than in 2007-08, when the rate across England was nearly twice as high.

On average, it meant Bracknell Forest pupils missed five days of school in the first two terms last year.

Authorised absences, such as for illness or medical appointments, accounted for 79 per cent of time off.

The rest were unauthorised, including those for truancy or arriving late.

Family holidays, for which permission was not given by the school, made up more than a quarter of unauthorised absences.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that missed days can be harmful to a child’s education, and that term-time absence must only be allowed in “exceptional circumstances”.

But he said the system of fines, whereby councils can hand parents £60 penalties for their child’s unauthorised absence, is a blunt instrument that often "drives a wedge between schools and families”.

ALSO READ: Frimley Health NHS trust bosses defend generating £18 million in car parking charges

He added: “The real problem is holiday pricing. Neither parents nor schools set the prices of holidays.

“They will both continue to be caught between a rock and hard place without some sensible government intervention.”

In total, Cambridgeshire’s state schools lost about 77,200 days of teaching during the two terms.

A DfE spokeswoman said: “Tackling persistent absence is a priority for the Government and it is encouraging to see a decrease in persistent and overall absence compared to last year.

“The rules on term-time absences are clear. No child should be taken out of school without good reason.

“We have put head teachers back in control by supporting them – and local authorities – to use their powers to deal with unauthorised absence.”