To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what steps the Department is taking to ensure that the estimate 100,000 children who have become severely absent from school following covid-19 lockdowns are returned to the classroom.
Regular attendance at school is vital for children’s education, wellbeing, and long-term development.
My right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, recently established an Attendance Alliance of national leaders from education, children’s social care and allied services to work together to raise school attendance and reduce persistent absence.
The Alliance has pledged to take a range of action to remove barriers preventing children attending school. This includes work by Rob Tarn, CEO 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 for reducing persistent absence across schools through a range of webinars, case studies and videos which we will be publishing over the coming weeks.
We also welcome the Children’s Commissioner’s focus and investigation on children regularly missing school. The Children’s Commissioner pledged to do this work at the inaugural meeting of the Alliance in December 2021. The Commissioner’s Office are updating us on their progress which will be reported back to the Alliance.
The department is also committed to a form of register for children not in school. This will help local authorities undertake their existing duties to ensure children receive a suitable education and help safeguard all children who are in scope. We will set out further details on this in the government response to the ‘children not in school’ consultation, which we will publish in the coming weeks.
We continue to make clear that schools and local authorities should identify children who are persistently absent or at risk of persistent absence and develop plans to support them to return to regular education.