INFLEXIBLE school behaviour policies have been identified as the number one reason for poor attendance of cared for children in Northumberland.

Figures from Northumberland County Council found that a third of cared for pupils have school attendance rates of less than 90 per cent, while overall absence and the proportion of pupils described as “persistently absent” have reached record highs.

Among cared for children, overall absence increased to 10.3 per cent while persistent absence increased to 28 per cent – which is higher than the national average.

Other reasons for poor attendance included instability, unmet special educational needs as well as parental influences and friendship difficulties.

READ MORE: Complaints against county council's children's services rise

Speaking at Thursday’s meeting (March 7) of the council’s Family and Children’s Services Overview and Scrutiny Committee, members voiced their concern at the data despite officers stating that the issue was being looked at.

Cllr Holly Waddell said: “The number one reason for poor attendance is inflexible school behaviour plans. That is something that surely could be changed.”

Cllr Mark Swinburn added: “These are some of the most vulnerable children we have got in Northumberland. From my perspective, inflexible school behaviour policies should not be the number one reason our looked after children are missing school.

“The fact that we’re working on it is great and we have to work with academies too, but we shouldn’t have been doing that. To see that there has really jumped out at me this year.

“I’m shocked and disappointed. The quicker we can make headway into changing these inflexible policies in some of our schools, then it would make a significant benefit for the looked after children. I hope these schools can turn over as soon as possible.”

Former head teacher Alan Hodgson outlined the importance of good attendance for school children.

He said: “Attendance runs through this report like a stick of rock. The frightening thing is if we have a child not attending school, their ability to achieve is severely limited.

“What worries me is we’re talking about an attendance level of 64 per cent which is frighteningly low. Persistent absence is also very high.”