Pupil absence rates at schools in England have climbed to their highest level so far this calendar year, new figures show.
Some 8.4% of pupils were absent across the week ending March 31, up from 7.0% the previous week.
It is the highest level since the last week of the autumn term in December 2022, when the rate stood at 14.3% amid a surge in cases of both flu and Covid-19.
An estimated 3.2% of pupils were away from school for unauthorised reasons in the latest week – again, the highest since the end of December.
This is the proportion of pupils who have missed 10% or more of their possible school sessions, defined as half a day.
Figures for persistent absence have remained around 23% since the data was first published in February.
The rate of persistent absence is higher in special schools (39.8%) and secondary schools (27.2%) than in primary schools (18.5%).
Separate figures published on Thursday show there were 200,800 suspensions in schools in England in the 2021/22 spring term, the equivalent of 2.4 per 100 pupils and the highest for any term since current data began in 2016/17.
There were 2,175 permanent exclusions in spring 2021/22, or 0.03 per 100 pupils – the highest since before the Covid-19 pandemic.
North-east England had the highest rate of permanent exclusions, at 0.05 per 100 pupils, while inner London and south-east England had the lowest, at 0.01 per 100.