Huw Lewis welcomed new statistics showing that the number of school days missed through absence was now falling, but added that the Welsh government would continue to make improving school attendance a priority.
In the last two years, £800,000 has been spent on the campaign to keep pupils in school. This academic year parents have been targeted at the beginning of the new term with leaflets and banners on the school gates in a bid to drive the message home that to “miss school is to miss out”.
The leaflets set out a list of common complaints or illnesses school children suffer, ranging from head lice and foot and mouth especially in younger pupils to chicken pox and measles and offers guidance on whether a child can attend school.
The new government figures for 2013/14 show that such campaigns and the work of teachers to keep children in school are having a positive effect with overall absence down one percentage point on last year. This figure has been falling every year since 2005/06.
The figures also show that more children than ever before have no absences at all and are striving for full attendance.
And persistent absence is now half what it was six years ago at five per cent. In total 60 per cent of absence is due to illness.
Mr Lewis said: “If children and young people are going to get the most out of their education and fulfil their potential it is so important that they attend school regularly and benefit from being in a learning environment.
“In the last two years we have invested £800,000 to support regional consortia working with local authorities and schools in securing long-term improvements in school attendance. The Attendance Analysis Framework has also been implemented and attendance data is now included in school data packs.”
Mr Lewis also believes the controversial school banding which includes attendance statistics to rate schools has had a positive impact on the figures.
He added: “The inclusion of attendance data in the All Wales Core Data Sets for schools and local authorities is a key source of information for schools to use in their self-evaluation and school improvement processes.
“These are encouraging statistics and we will continue to focus on improving school attendance.”