Certain influenza outbreaks, including the 2009 influenza A(H1N1) pandemic, can predominantly affect school-age children. Therefore the use of school absenteeism data has been considered as a potential tool for providing early warning of increasing influenza activity in the community. This study retrospectively evaluates the usefulness of these data by comparing them with existing syndromic surveillance systems and laboratory data. Weekly mean percentages of absenteeism in 373 state schools (children aged 4–18 years) in Birmingham, UK, from September 2006 to September 2009, were compared with established syndromic surveillance systems including a telephone health helpline, a general practitioner sentinel network and laboratory data for influenza. Correlation coefficients were used to examine the relationship between each syndromic system. In June 2009, school absenteeism generally peaked concomitantly with the existing influenza surveillance systems in England. Weekly school absenteeism surveillance would not have detected pandemic influenza A(H1N1) earlier but daily absenteeism data and the development of baselines could improve the timeliness of the system.