From education to employment

Schools Minister to face Education Committee on tackling persistent absence

Evidence Session              

Persistent absence and support for disadvantaged pupils 

Tuesday 27 June at 10:00, Committee Room 15              

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The Schools Minister Nick Gibb will be questioned by the Education Committee on how the Government will tackle the growing problem of persistent absence from school.

This final session of the Committee’s inquiry into persistent absence and support for disadvantaged pupils comes after the Department for Education (DfE) released figures showing that the absence problem continues to grow. It will also be the Minister’s first Committee appearance since regaining his post last year.

In the autumn 2022/23 term, 24.2% of pupils were persistently absent (meaning they missed 10% or more sessions). This was more than double the 10.9% persistent absence rate of autumn 2018/19, before the pandemic. 1.7% of pupils were severely absent in autumn 2022/23 (defined as missing 50% or more sessions); this again was more than double the pre-pandemic level when 0.7% of pupils were severely absent in autumn 2018/19.

The cross-party Committee will question the Minister on the underlying causes of low attendance that it has heard from witnesses, such as unmet need among children with mental health conditions or special educational needs and disabilities.

MPs will ask about the efficacy of attendance hubs, DfE’s flagship policy to improve attendance, after it recently announced that it will set up nine new hubs to support 600 more schools.

The Department also plans to increase the number of school attendance mentors – staff who engage with absent children and their families – in various parts of the country. Like with attendance hubs, MPs will want to hear evidence of how effective this measure has been.

Mr Gibb will be asked for his assessment of the interventions advocated by previous witnesses, such as the provision of breakfast clubs and free school meals, offering activities during school holidays, and providing more opportunities for children to take part in sport and the arts.

Another issue MPs may raise is whether DfE’s attendance statistics should be broken down by ‘authorised’ and ‘non-authorised’ absences, after witnesses said this could capture the proportion of missed sessions due to medical appointments and other unavoidable reasons.

There may also be questions about the efficacy of issuing fines to parents for their child’s unauthorised absence – a measure that has been criticised by witnesses in this inquiry. 

Witness schedule from 10:00

  • Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP, Minister of State for Schools, Department for Education
  • Graham Archer, Interim Director General for Families Group, Department for Education

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