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New report: 100,000 children didn’t return to schools full-time


Driving school attendance through the National Tutoring Programme 

The Centre for Social Justice report on “KIDS CAN’T CATCH UP IF THEY DON’T SHOW UP“, has found that 100,000 children did not return to schools full-time when they reopened

New stats show 1 in 80 pupils (93,514) were missing from our classrooms for more than 50% of lessons in Autum term 2020 – up 50% on same time in 2019.

This is 30,000 extra pupils missing for more than half of lessons a new form of absence we’ve called ‘severe absence’.

The number of primary school children who were missing for more than 50% of lessons in Autumn term 2020 has more than DOUBLED – 34,405 pupils.

In our secondary schools – 1 in 60 – teenagers (53,171) were missing more than they were in school in Autumn term 2020.

New CSJ research finds almost 100k children absent for more than half of lessons
‘Invisible’ children are forgotten victims of the pandemic and catch-up cash won’t help them.

Nearly 100,000 schoolchildren are losing out on vital teaching time because they’re missing from class for more than half of lessons, according to a new report from the Centre for Social Justice.Successive protracted lockdowns have wreaked havoc on children’s education with pupils losing a staggering 33 million days of schooling during closures. A new CSJ study, ‘Kids can’t catch up if they don’t show up’, reveals that the most vulnerable children have been hit hardest, with a significant rise in absenteeism meaning they’ve missed more school for longer.CSJ researchers set out to establish the true impact of the pandemic on disadvantaged children’s education and life chances. They combed official government data and interviewed charity experts to construct the most comprehensive picture yet of the damage done.The CSJ found:

  • In Autumn 2020, 33,000+ additional pupils were absent more often than they were present (severely absent). This is on top of any Covid related absence including sickness, shielding etc.
  • In total, during the first term back after the pandemic, 93,514 pupils (1 in 80) were severely absent. This compares with 60,244 in the same term in 2019.  This is a 54.7% increase in pupils severely absent – an additional 33,270 pupils.
  • In secondary schools, more than 1 in 60 pupils were severely absent in Autumn 2020. 53,171 pupils were absent more often than they were present. That’s up 14,218 from the previous year.
  • Over the last year, the rate of pupils who were severely absent in primary schools has more than doubled. In Autumn 2020, 0.89% of pupils in primary school were severely absent compared with 0.42% the year before. This equates to 34,405 primary school pupils who were absent more often than they were present. 
  • Persistent absence (missing more than 10% of ‘sessions’) has stayed dangerously high throughout the pandemic. 916,131 pupils were persistently absent this term – 13.0% of all pupils. 
  • Absenteeism leads to exclusion and each excluded pupil costs the state £370,000 in additional education, benefits, healthcare and criminal justice costs across a lifetime, with an annual £2.1bn bill for the Treasury.

The DfE has committed £3bn for children who have missed out, with a focus on lost learning, including £1bn for small-class tutoring for those from disadvantaged backgrounds. But there’s a major gap in provision for children most likely to disengage from education. Small scale tutoring won’t help children regularly missing from the classroom. The CSJ concludes that getting absentee kids back into class is critical and can deliver transformative results that radically reshape children’s life chances – and save the taxpayer billions. The report recommends directing some of the catch-up funding at programmes specifically designed to get persistent absentees back in class.

Sector reaction

CSJ founder Sir Iain Duncan Smith said:

‘The CSJ has uncovered the appalling truth that there are 93,000 children who are missing from our classrooms for more than half of lessons. For primary school children figures have doubled in the last year. These children are extremely vulnerable to being picked up by gangs, something charities are telling us is increasingly serious. We need to urgently make sure these children are returned to the classroom as part of government catch up plans. There’s no catch up without children in class.”

CSJ CEO Andy Cook added:

“When a child disappears from our school system, their future often disappears with them. Our research shows that by the end of last year almost 100,000 pupils were missing more than half of lessons, even after covid absence is stripped out. That’s more than the capacity of Wembley Stadium missing from school most days. We keep our ear to the ground and charities working with these children are telling us there’s now a real risk of children being picked up by street gangs.”

Kate Green MP 100x100Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said: 

“It is hugely concerning that so many children haven’t returned to school. The Conservatives have neglected education throughout this pandemic and this cannot be allowed to lead to children falling out of the system altogether.

“The Conservatives have failed to take the steps needed to keep schools Covid-secure, and their catch-up plan is woefully insufficient to support pupils in recovering from the pandemic.” 

“Labour’s Children’s Recovery Plan will give every child access to the extracurricular activities, academic help, and well-being support they need to thrive.”

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