Record numbers of primary school children skipped lessons without permission last year, official figures show.
More than 63,000 primary and secondary pupils were missing from lessons on a typical day in the autumn and spring terms of 2009-10, according to statistics published by the Department for Education.
But while the numbers of truanting secondary school children has fallen slightly, the number of primary age youngsters skipping class continues to rise.
The figures show that primary pupils skipped 0.68% of half days, up from 0.65% for the same terms in 2008-09, and 0.52% three years ago in 2006-07.
It means 22,700 primary pupils missed class on a typical school day in 2009-10 through truancy, family holidays, illness and other reasons, an analysis of the statistics suggests.
The overall truancy (unauthorised absence) rate has fallen slightly to 1.01% of half days missed, from 1.03% for the same two terms the year before.
In secondary schools, the truancy rate fell to 1.4% from 1.47% the year before.
But this still means around 40,800 secondary school pupils were absent without permission on a typical day.
The figures will raise fresh concerns that parents are taking pupils out of school during term time to take advantage of cheap family holiday deals.
Around 3.9m days in the autumn and spring term 2009-10 were missed due to family holidays - of these one in four (24%) was not approved by the school.
In total, absence due to family holidays accounted for 0.51% of half days missed.
Schools minister Nick Gibb welcomed the small drop in overall absence rates, but said the level of absenteeism in schools was still too high.
He said: “It is crucial that children are not missing out on valuable lessons that could leave them vulnerable to falling behind.”
The figures also show tens of thousands of pupils are still skipping more than a fifth of all half days, making them “persistent absentees”.
Across the two terms, 190,000 children missed at least 52 sessions, or 26 days of school.
In primary schools 59,380 children were defined as persistent absentees, and in secondaries this figure was 130,930.
The most common reason for absence was illness.
And the overall absence rate (both authorised and unauthorised) was 5.03%, down slightly from 5.28% the year before.
Mr Gibb said: “The government is committed to tackling the underlying causes of absenteeism, raising academic standards and ensuring every child can meet their potential, regardless of their background.
“We are putting in place a series of measures to raise standards of behaviour, put teachers back in control of the classroom and ensure pupils understand that the authority of their school can extend beyond the school gates.”