Pupils: Absenteeism

Department for Education written question – answered on 4th November 2021.

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Photo of Rachael Maskell Rachael Maskell Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment he has made of the impact of pupil absences from school as a result of covid-19 on their education.

Photo of Robin Walker Robin Walker The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister of State (Education)

Children and young people’s education has been significantly disrupted as a result of COVID-19. The evidence is clear that being out of education causes significant harm to educational attainment, life chances, mental and physical health.

Ofsted has found that, despite remote education being offered, learning is still being lost when pupils and students have to self-isolate, particularly when this happens repeatedly. This has been reinforced by the World Health Organisation (WHO), whose updated recommendations are clear that measures should be implemented that protect in-person schooling in this academic year. More information is available here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1000025/Evidence_Summary_-_July_2021.pdf.

Our priority is for schools to deliver face-to-face, high-quality education to all pupils. As COVID-19 becomes a virus that we learn to live with, there is now an imperative to reduce the disruption to children and young people’s education. School attendance is mandatory for all pupils. Data published on 19 October shows that on 14 October nearly all state-funded schools were open and attendance in all state-funded schools was 90%, up from 89.5% on 30 September.

We have a comprehensive attendance strategy that has been implemented since the beginning of this academic year to ensure that any absence as a result of COVID-19 is minimised, and we are continuing to closely monitor absence levels and trends to ensure a focus on attendance remains throughout the rest of this academic year.

We know the COVID-19 outbreak has caused particular challenges for some children who may already have been disengaged from education. That is why we have been working closely with local authorities and schools to help them re-engage pupils, including providing best practice advice.

Helping children and young people to catch up on learning missed due to COVID-19 remains a top priority of this government, which is why, in addition to an ambitious wider settlement for schools and 16 to 19 settings announced in the recent Spending Review, we are investing nearly £5 billion in education recovery. This includes £1.5 billion for a national tutoring revolution, a £1 billion multi-year ‘Recovery Premium’ building on the £950 million already invested so schools can deliver evidence-based interventions based on pupil needs, summer schools, extra time in 16 to 19 education, and 500,000 training opportunities for school teachers and early years practitioners.

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