Political Correspondent

PUPILS missing school for unauthorised holidays during term time has hit a record high according to official statistics.

Scottish Government figures show that almost one million days were lost in the last year due to parents taking children out of school to go on holiday.

Analysis of official figures by the Labour Party has showed that all forms of unauthorised absences mean the figure almost doubles to nearly two million school days lost.

The overall figures include truancy.

The party has said the rise in the figures show cause concern to the Scottish Government especially with its ambition to close the attainment gap between the richest and most deprived pupils.

The figures for unauthorised holidays and all unauthorised absences have increased steadily in the last ten years. Holidays increased from a rate of 0.4% in 2005/06 to 0.7% in 2016/17 to 910,272 days.

Overall unexplained absences rose from 0.7% to 1.5% over the same period to 1,950,583 days.

Labour said the figures also highlighted a cost of living problem in Scotland, with parents pulling children out of school to save potentially hundreds of pounds on holiday travel.

Iain Gray Labour’s education spokesman said: “These figures should be a cause of concern for any government that wants to close the attainment gap on our classrooms, a huge amount of school days are being lost.

“Policy makers in the Scottish Government should be asking themselves why there has been such a sharp increase in these unauthorised absences and the knock on affect that will have on young people getting the skills they need.

“We know the pressures families fall under as the Christmas and summer holidays approach – airlines hike up the price of flights forcing families to choose between the last week of school or being able to afford a holiday or travel to see loved ones.”

Overall Scottish schools had an attendance rate raging between 91.8% and 95.3% macros the 32 council areas.

Glasgow’s schools achieved a rate of 92.5% which has been similar for at least the last four years.

The Scottish Government guidance for parents states: “Schools will not normally give a family permission to take pupils out of school for holidays during term-time.

“This means that if your child is off school because you are away on holiday the school will record this as an unauthorised absence

“It is up to education authorities to decide what sanctions they will use if there is an unauthorised absence.”