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Education Committee examines interventions to improve school attendance

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The Education Committee continues its inquiry into the growing problem of school absence by asking experts about specific interventions to encourage children back to the classroom.

Latest government data shows that absence levels have continued to increase since before the pandemic. 7.5% of possible sessions were recorded as absence in autumn term 2022/23, an increase from 6.9% in autumn 2021/22, having been consistently below 5% pre-pandemic. Furthermore,24.2% of pupils were persistently absent (meaning they missed 10% or more of session) in the autumn term – more than double the 10.9% rate in autumn 2018/19.

MPs will question witnesses from charities and local government with experience of overseeing initiatives such as breakfast clubs, holiday clubs and providing sports activities. These are among interventions that the Department for Education is promoting in its programme of setting up Attendance Hubs with the aim of driving down absence. The cross-party Committee will be looking for evidence of which activities could be most effective if adopted in schools around the country.

David Holmes, CEO of Family Action, will be asked about his charity’s role in being the sole delivery partner of the Government-subsidised National School Breakfast Club Programme, which is believed to have had a positive impact on attendance and punctuality. Nottingham City Council is one local authority that says holiday clubs help parents ensure their children have access to fun activities and food; its Holiday Activity Fund Manager Declan Baker will give evidence. Leigh Middleton of the National Youth Agency will be asked about the partnerships that youth services can form with schools to improve attendance among disadvantaged pupils.

Other interventions the MPs want to hear about include the mentoring programmes offered by national rugby charity School of Hard Knocks. There will also be questions to a representative of Manchester City FC’s ‘City Inspires’ programme, where club coaches lead sports and educational sessions in local schools.

Previous witnesses in this inquiry have suggested the increased prevalence of mental health problems and unmet demand for services to help children with SEND are driving up absence.

Evidence Session            

Persistent absence and support for disadvantaged children 

Tuesday 6 June at 10:00, Committee Room 15            

Watch live on 

Witnesses from 10:00

  • David Holmes, CEO, Family Action
  • Declan Baker, Holiday Activity Fund Manager, Nottingham City Council
  • Leigh Middleton, CEO, National Youth Agency 

Witnesses from 11:00

  • Nathan Persaud, Programmes Director for England, School of Hard Knocks
  • Jonathan Pauley, 11+ Education Manager, City Inspires

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