Pupils: Absenteeism

Department for Education written question – answered on 6th September 2021.

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Photo of Robert Halfon Robert Halfon Chair, Education Committee, Chair, Education Committee

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to his Department’s most recent statistics on attendance in education and early years settings, what assessment his Department plans to make on the impact of high absence rates in the weeks leading up to the summer 2021 holidays on learning.

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

Children and young people’s education has been significantly disrupted because of COVID-19. Bubbles, contact tracing and isolation requirements have been the major drivers of this. The latest attendance figures are available here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/attendance-in-education-and-early-years-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak.

The Department commissioned Renaissance Learning to provide a baseline assessment of education disruption for pupils in schools in England and monitor progress throughout the year to help target support across the system. The interim report for the 2020/21 academic year is available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/962330/Learning_Loss_Report_1A_-_FINAL.pdf.

Since June 2020, the Department has announced more than £3 billion to support education recovery in schools, colleges and nurseries. This funding includes more than £1.5 billion for a national tutoring revolution, £400 million for training and professional development, £200 million for summer schools this summer, a £650 million universal catch up premium, a recovery premium worth over £300 million in the coming year, and £17 million to support language development in the early years. These recovery packages provide a balance of flexible funding for schools and funding for those interventions that evidence tells us will make the most difference.

The Government is committed to an ambitious, long term education recovery plan. The next stage will include a review of time spent in school and 16 to 19 education and the effect this could have on helping children and young people to catch up. The findings of the review will be set out later in the year.

The Government’s priority is for all children and young people to continue to be able to attend schools, colleges, and nurseries. The evidence is clear that missed face to face attendance can cause significant harm to children and young people’s education, life chances, and mental and physical health. This harm disproportionately affects children and young people from the most disadvantaged backgrounds. To keep schools, colleges, and nurseries open and maximise the opportunity for children and young people to attend, head teachers, staff, pupils, and parents have worked tirelessly to implement measures which have helped to minimise the transmission of COVID-19 and to support the safety and wellbeing of children, young people, and staff.

Ensuring that attendance is maximised in the new year remains a high priority for the Department. We will continue to work closely with local authorities and schools to help them reengage pupils, provide best practice advice and support families where attendance is a concern. In supporting the attendance of vulnerable children, the Department continues to provide schools and local authorities with resources to help them overcome barriers to attendance. Social workers are expected to support the attendance of children in need, as well as looked after children, by working with schools to follow up on absences.

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