School Attendance

Oral Answers to Questions — Education – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th November 2015.

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Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

Regular attendance at school is vital for academic success. Overall absence rates are down from 6% in 2009-10 to 4.4% in 2013-14, amounting to some 14.5 million fewer school days lost. We have supported head teachers to improve school behaviour, and we have addressed the misconception that pupils are entitled to time off for holidays in term time. Some 200,000 fewer pupils regularly miss school compared with 2010.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Speaker of the House of Commons

While we are on the subject of congratulations, I congratulate in public, as I have congratulated him in private, the Minister of State on his recent marriage. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”]

Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Speaker's Advisory Committee on Works of Art

I echo the Speaker’s comments. Does my hon. Friend agree that improving attendance can sometimes come about as a result of a range of innovative and interesting measures? The all-girls breakfast club at Cantell school in Southampton is a brilliant example of how building a strong and cohesive school community can improve attendance.

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

I am grateful to you, Mr Speaker, and to my hon. Friend for the congratulations. I echo the words of the Under-Secretary of State for Education, my hon. Friend Mr Gyimah: we are better together.

I am delighted to pay tribute to the work of the breakfast club at Cantell school in Southampton, which is an excellent example of the innovative approaches that many schools take to improve attendance. The Department funds the charity Magic Breakfast to provide free, sustainable breakfast clubs in 184 schools in disadvantaged areas. We are also giving parents new rights to request breakfast clubs and other wrap-around care, which should expand their availability.

Photo of Paula Sherriff Paula Sherriff Labour, Dewsbury

Has the Minister considered the impact of the Government’s welfare policies on school attendance by disabled pupils over 16 who are required to attend interviews for the personal independence payment? I have been dealing with the case of a constituent who has been summoned under threat of sanction for this stressful process in the middle of their exams. Will the Government take action to ensure that the timing of PIP assessments for those in full-time education works around the school year and the timetable?

Photo of Nick Gibb Nick Gibb Minister of State (Education)

I am grateful to the hon. Lady for raising that matter with me. I will, of course, look at the case in detail and write to her.