The number of classes being skipped by children has increased dramatically compared to before the pandemic.

Department for Education figures show 91,000 of 4.9 million school sessions were missed without permission - known as unauthorised absence -  by pupils in Bolton.

A teaching union say truancy figures are a serious cause for concern.

It meant children in the area had an unauthorised absence rate of 1.9 per cent.

The school day is split into a morning and afternoon session, with every child expected to attend all sessions.

In the 2018-19 spring term, the unauthorised absence rate was 1.4 per cent, meaning it has increased by 36 per cent during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nationally, 2.3 per cent of pupils missed school without permission in the spring, almost double the 1.2 per cent who were absent from lessons in 2018-19.

Every area in the country has seen the rate of unauthorised absences rise by more than 30 per cent since 2018-19.

The overall absence rate has also risen across the country, from 4.8 per cent in the 2018-19 spring term to seven per cent last year.

In Bolton, 293,000 school sessions (six per cent) were missed in the latest spring term.

Teacher Robert Poole,  who is a member of the National Education Union member, said: “The rise in unauthorised school absences in Bolton is a serious cause for concern.

“It is a reflection of the deepening poverty and inequality in our society, and the failure of the government to provide adequate support for children and their families.

“Many children are absent from school because they are struggling to cope with the pressures of poverty and deprivation.

“They may be hungry, tired, or stressed about their home situation.

“They may also be lacking in basic resources, such as uniforms and school supplies.

“The government has cut funding for schools and mental health services over the past decade.

“This has made it more difficult for schools to support vulnerable children and their families.

“The government has also introduced punitive measures, such as fines for parents whose children have unauthorised absences.

“These measures have not been successful in reducing absences, and they have only made the situation worse for struggling families.”

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association for School and College Leaders, said there are several complex factors causing rising absence rates.

They include mental health issues, exacerbated by the pandemic, a lack of support for children with special educational needs, with schools lacking resources to deal with them, and the cost-of-living crisis, with 30 per cent of children growing up in poverty.

Julie said: "It will take concerted government action to address these issues, all of which are linked to high levels of pupil absence, and ensure all children are getting the support they need at the right time."

A Department for Education spokesperson said: "The vast majority of children are in school and learning, and we are taking action to increase attendance because it is vital for a child’s education, wellbeing and future life chances.

"We have expanded our attendance hubs, which will support over 400,000 pupils across 14 hubs and provided a toolkit for schools about communicating with parents on this issue.

"Our mentoring programme, delivered by Barnardo’s, sees trained mentors work directly with 1,665 persistently and severely absent children and their families to understand and overcome the barriers to attendance and support them back into school."

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