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New School Absence Figures Released!

classroom with students' hands up

Ministers must take urgent action to combat school absence rates after new official figures were released showing that school absence remains at crisis levels. In Autumn 2022, 125,222 pupils were away from the classroom more often than not, compared to 60,244 in Autumn 2019.

The call came from Joe Shalam, Policy Director of leading think-tank the Centre for Social Justice, which first identified the spectre of so-called “ghost children”, whose numbers have increased by 108 per cent since the onset of the pandemic. 

Mr Shalam said: “It is an appalling fact that the number of pupils missing more of school than they are attending has more than doubled since before the pandemic. 

“Rather than re-announcing existing schemes set to reach one per cent of severely absent pupils at most, we need now to see the Government taking serious and accelerated action reflective of the fact there were over 125,000 so-called ‘ghost children’ at the last count.

“Enormous damage is being done to their educational prospects and their chances of securing qualifications that will open the door to a university or college place and a well paid job.

“The country is also suffering. Britain’s labour market desperately needs legions of well qualified young people to take it forward in the coming decades. None of this will happen if we wind up creating a lost generation who have simply dropped out of the education system.” 

Mr Shalam said that the CSJ was pressing ministers urgently to implement its 7-point plan for turning the tide. A vital element was the recruitment of 2,000 “attendance mentors” to work with the families of absent children and draw them back to the classroom.

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

“The Conservative Government is letting our children down badly. After all the disruption of Covid, far too many children are still missing out on crucial time in the classroom because of illness.

“The Conservatives have plunged the NHS into crisis and chronically underfunded children’s mental health services. Now their failures are taking a big toll not just on children’s health, but their education too.

“The Government must start taking children’s health and wellbeing far more seriously. It’s not just about what happens at school but the barriers stopping so many children making it to school at all.”

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