School Absences: A Call for Comprehensive Support

Sam Preston 20 May 2024 1 min read
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The persistent issue of school absences in England has reached crisis levels, prompting urgent calls from Members of Parliament for bold national interventions. The need for decisive action is evident, with the proportion of pupils missing substantial portions of their education now double the pre-pandemic rates.

Statistics

Figures from the 2022-2023 academic year reveal that 22.3% of pupils are classified as "persistently absent," defined as missing 10% or more of their lessons. This represents a significant surge from previous years, with primary schools experiencing an absence rate of 17.2% and secondary schools grappling with 28.3%.

Commons Education Select Committee

In response to this alarming trend, the Commons Education Select Committee has issued a new report shedding light on the multifaceted reasons behind these absences. Mental health challenges and the escalating cost of living are cited as contributing factors, underscoring the complex nature of the issue. (UK Parliament: Persistent absence and support for disadvantaged pupils)

Which areas are affected by school absence?

There are many areas across the UK particularly affected by high absence rates, where families are grappling with the repercussions of displacement and mental health struggles marked by depression and logistical challenges, highlighting the need for tailored support mechanisms to address the root causes of absences.

Schools Providing Assistance

Schools have had to step in to provide invaluable assistance, such as sending minibuses to transport absent children. These interventions, though impactful, highlight the need for systemic changes to ensure consistent support for all families facing similar struggles.

Education Select Committee report

The Education Select Committee report emphasises the importance of expanding initiatives like attendance mentors, who play a crucial role in facilitating school attendance for vulnerable families. Pilot schemes have shown promise, but more comprehensive implementation is necessary to address the pervasive nature of the issue.

Additionally, the report calls for re-evaluating punitive measures such as fines for unauthorised absences, advocating for a more compassionate approach that considers the underlying challenges families face.

Central to these recommendations is the acknowledgement of the connection between poverty and educational achievement. Educators know that there needs to be a clearer understanding of how poverty significantly affects children's access to education, highlighting the necessity for comprehensive support measures.

Department for Education response

The Department for Education acknowledges the gravity of the situation, affirming its commitment to ensuring no child falls through the cracks. Initiatives such as expanding attendance hubs and mentorship programs signal a step in the right direction, but sustained efforts are essential to address the systemic issues driving school absences.

Conclusion

Addressing school absences must be prioritised as a critical component of educational recovery. By implementing comprehensive support measures and fostering a culture of understanding and empathy, we can strive towards a future where every child has the opportunity to thrive in the classroom.

Sam Preston

SSS Learning Safeguarding Director


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