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Pupil absence statistics publication points to a national crisis for our children and young people

young student learning with a computer

Pupil absence statistics reveal a national crisis for children and youth. In the autumn term 2022 and spring term 2023, 21.2% of children were persistently absent (1.56 million children). Although this is a slight improvement from 2021/22, the crisis continues, with 139,000 children severely absent.

According to the most recent national statistics released yesterday, during the autumn term 2022 and the spring term 2023, 21.2% of children were persistently absent from school which equates to 1.56 million children. Whilst this is a slight improvement from the same period in 2021/22 when 22.3% and 1.61 million children were persistently absent, the school attendance crisis continues, with almost 139,000 (1.9%) children being severely absent in the autumn term 2022 and the spring term 2023. This is an increase from 1.5% across the same period in 2021/22. These figures, while lagged, reflect the Government’s most recent experimental statistics based on the Pupil Attendance Dashboard which showed that persistent absence for the academic year 2022/23 is slightly higher at 22.3%.

Jaine Stannard, CEO of School-Home Support said:

“Today’s pupil absence statistics points to a national crisis for our children and young people, which as a country, we are failing to address quickly enough; a crisis with profound consequences both for our education system and for society more widely. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds who most need the opportunity and care that good schools offer and are already 40% less likely to pass their English and maths GCSEs are most likely to be persistently absent, meaning this attainment gap is likely to widen.” 

School-Home Support is calling for the Government to use the Autumn Statement to ensure more schools can access whole family support so they can work with parents to tackle the underlying causes of high absence. 

A  new landmark study undertaken by Public First highlights a seismic shift in parental attitudes to school attendance. Their report found that’ it is no longer the case that ‘every day matters’ in school, at least from the point of view of parents/carers’. It points to a fundamental breakdown in the relationship between schools and parents/carers across the socio-economic spectrum which will take a monumental multi-agency effort to rebuild. 

The Education Select Committee’s recent report on persistent absence and support for disadvantaged children recommends a range of measures to tackle high absence including investment and refocusing of the Government’s Attendance Mentors Programme so it can be rolled out nationally and refocused so whole family support can be prioritised.

School-Home Support’s ‘Dig a Little Deeper’ campaign is calling on the Government to commit  £90.2 million to establish a nationwide network of whole family support practitioners. This initiative will provide holistic and comprehensive support to families facing numerous challenges that contribute to high absenteeism rates.

Jaine Stannard, CEO of School-Home Support emphasised the crucial role parents play in improving attendance, stating:

“Parents are crucial partners in improving attendance; without them, nothing is possible. These findings are a snapshot, but they give a flavour of frustration and despondency with a system that is underfunded and lacks nuance. Schools are currently understaffed and under-resourced which inevitably puts strain on the relationship between home and school leaders can’t do this alone, they need a multi-agency, holistic approach over a sustained period of time.”

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