Children’s Education Recovery and Childcare Costs

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 4:37 pm on 7th June 2022.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister of State (Education) 4:37 pm, 7th June 2022

I have a lot to say, so I am going to make a bit of progress now. I have taken an intervention from the hon. Lady already.

Regular attendance at school is also vital for children’s education, wellbeing and long-term development. Our priority is to maximise the number of children regularly attending school. We recognise that the lessons learned during the pandemic must help us to strengthen and improve the overall system, which is why we recently published guidance for schools, trusts and local authorities, setting out how we expect them to work together to improve attendance.

The Secretary of State has also established an alliance of national leaders from education, children’s social care and allied services, who have taken pledges to raise school attendance. That includes work by Rob Tarn, the chief executive officer of the Northern Education Trust, a multi-academy trust serving areas with high levels of disadvantage, to work with other trust leaders to identify and disseminate best practice. Alongside that, we are running a series of effective practice attendance training webinars, which have been accessed by more than 12,000 school staff so far. Our team of expert attendance advisers also continues to work closely with a number of multi-academy trusts and local authorities with high levels of persistent absence to review their current practice and develop plans to improve.

I am pleased to confirm that legislative measures to establish a registration system for children not in school were included as part of the Schools Bill introduced by Parliament on 11 May 2022, which is currently in the other place. These measures will help local authorities to ensure that all children are safe and receive a suitable education. Through our attendance action alliance, the Children’s Commissioner has also begun a review to understand more about children missing education, and where and why they may be falling through the gaps. She has consulted the alliance on her initial findings, but her review is ongoing.

We know that the worries that children and young people may have about their progress at school and how this affects their future are important factors in their wider wellbeing, and subject learning is part of what children and young people enjoy most about school. That is why the additional support we have put in place to ensure that children feel supported in their education, and on track with their learning and wider development, is so vital and integral to their mental wellbeing.

I wish to be clear that children and young people are not alone on this journey and the onus is not on them to catch up; it is something that the whole school and the whole education system is looking to achieve together. It is our priority to support education settings to do so. The things we are doing to support schools are reflected more widely in our schools White Paper.

We have provided specific support for teaching about mental health and wellbeing as part of health education. Taking part in enrichment and extra-curricular activities is well known to support children’s wellbeing, but we know that participation fell during the pandemic. The longer, richer school week that we are securing through the White Paper will help to ensure that all pupils have the chance to have a wide range of experiences, including in sport, music and the arts, and we are supporting the expansion of opportunities to take part in specific schemes such as the cadets and the Duke of Edinburgh award.

We are also updating our behaviour in schools guidance to support schools to create calm, safe and supportive environments, which are important to pupil mental health and wellbeing. The guidance recognises that reasonable and appropriate adjustments may need to be made for pupils and that schools may wish to ensure that their staff are trained on matters that may affect pupils’ behaviour, including special education needs, disability or mental health needs. The guidance also makes it clear that following a behaviour incident staff should take into account any contributing factors and whether a pupil has mental health needs, and consider what support is required.