Latest statistics show the overall rate of absence in maintained secondary schools in Wales has dropped for the seventh year in a row, with just 7.4 per cent of sessions missed in 2012/13.
Unauthorised absences were also down, with 1.3 per cent of secondary sessions missed by pupils aged 16 and under.
Education unions welcomed the efforts being made by teachers to keep pupils in Welsh classrooms but were less certain that banding was responsible for the improvement.
Since December 2011 schools in Wales have been grouped in one of five bands based on a range of criteria including attendance and exam results. Band one schools are considered best-performing, while band five schools are considered weak and in need of more support. Those in lower bands tend to have attendance rates in the bottom 25 per cent of schools in Wales.
Figures show overall secondary school absence rates were as high as 9.9 per cent in 2005/06, when the percentage of school sessions missed without permission was 1.7 per cent. Girls continue to have a higher rate of overall absence than boys, though the gap has been narrowing since 2008/09 and girls and boys had the same rate of unauthorised absence last year.
A Welsh government spokeswoman said: “It’s clear that the actions we are taking to reduce absenteeism from schools in Wales are having a positive impact. The introduction of secondary school banding, where absenteeism data forms a part in determining a school’s band, also appears to have been a factor in improving attendance figures.
“However, there is still work to be done and we need to ensure local authorities and schools are now able to sustain and build on these improvements. That’s why we are putting £800,000 in place to support regional consortia to work with their local authorities and schools in securing long-term improvements in school attendance.”
Owen Hathway, policy officer for NUT Wales, said it remained to be seen whether Wales’s new truancy policy – which suggests £60 fixed-penalty notices are issued by councils for long-term absenteeism – will improve things.
Robin Hughes, secretary of the ASCL Cymru, said improvements were not down to banding and “school leaders know better than to plan on the basis of something that needs fixing”.