THE number of pupils persistently skipping school in Worcestershire has dropped by almost a third in three years according to new figures.

The Department for Education has released figures which show 4,060 Worcestershire students were persistently absent in 2009/10 while only 2,831 pupils were classed as persistent truants in 2012/13.

The change represents a 30.3 per cent drop, which is slightly below the national average for England which is 30.5 per cent.

The figures are impressive because the definition of persistent absence has also changed in that time.

In 2009/10, children had to be off school for 20 per cent of the year to be classed as persistent truants but in 2011 the threshold was lowered to 15 per cent.

That is the equivalent of missing 18 months of a whole school career.

Robin Walker, Worcester's MP, welcomed the news that the county is seeing better attendance.

He said: “The evidence shows that persistent absence for school has a serious detrimental effect on pupils’ performance and so it is great news that, thanks to this Government’s actions and the hard work of teachers, heads and school governors, truancy has dramatically reduced in Worcestershire.

“This Government is reintroducing rigour into our schools, ensuring high standards of discipline are maintained, and our EBacc means that more young people are studying for the key academic subjects that will help them get a job.

"Targeting resources to the most needy through the pupil premium and backing teachers to exercise proper discipline are also vital parts of this approach.

"We need to do more but it is good that progress is being made.”

The government has introduced a number of reforms including increasing fines for truancy from £50 to £60, and from £100 to £120 if not paid within 28 days from September 2012.

Parents also have less time in which to pay the penalties, with the limit dropping from 42 to 28 days from September 2013.

Research shows pupils being absent from school has a significant impact on attainment.

Only 39 per cent of pupils who miss between 10 per cent and 20 per cent of school achieve at least five A* to C GCSEs including English and maths.

This compares to 73 per cent of pupils who miss less than five per cent of school.