To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent assessment he has made of (a) the extent to which pupil disengagement with school after lockdowns has contributed to higher than usual pupil absence levels and (b) the role that extra-curricular activities within a school can play in driving up pupil attendance.
To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of the impact that providing young people with the opportunities to apply their learning in relevant context has on (a) pupil engagement, (b) levels of persistent absence and (c) pupil attainment; and if his Department will take steps to support more secondary schools to provide such opportunities to apply learning across their curriculum.
Regular school attendance is vital for children’s education, wellbeing and long-term development. Given the disruption already caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the department's focus is on maximising the number of children who regularly attend school.
The department publishes detailed pupil absence data as part of the school census and includes the most recent periods of national lockdown. The latest publication can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/pupil-absence-in-schools-in-england-autumn-2020-and-spring-2021.
The department also recently published new guidance for schools, trusts and local authorities setting out how we expect them to work together to ensure as many young people are regularly attending school as possible.
The department recognises that enrichment activities play an important role in an engaging school experience and supporting more children to attend. Research shows that engaging in enrichment activities can benefit children’s mental health, social skills, confidence, and general wellbeing. That is why the department is committed to ensuring young people have access to high-quality extra-curricular activities and are supporting a range of initiatives to expand access to these through schools, including Duke of Edinburgh and Cadets.
The government is investing over £200 million a year in the Holiday Activities and Food programme for the next three years. This programme provides healthy meals and enriching activities to children from low-income families, benefiting their health, wellbeing, and learning, and supporting their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
To build on this foundation, the department is also supporting schools to navigate the resources available to develop a high-quality extracurricular offer, by providing guidance on how to make these activities a success and working with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to help schools ensure their pupils are getting the most out of the National Youth Guarantee.
The department's recent Schools White Paper also outlined our ambitions for the curriculum as a whole. The department is clear that all children should be entitled to take part in sport, music and cultural opportunities. These are an essential part of a broad and ambitious curriculum, and they support children’s attendance and engagement in education.
It is crucial that every school has a well-designed and well-sequenced curriculum which includes the teaching of skills, to ensure children build knowledge in a broad range of subjects before going on to specialise after the age of 16 and develop skills needed for further education and training.
The programmes of study for each national curriculum subject set out the ‘matters, skills, and processes’ to be taught at each key stage. The programmes of study are subject-specific. This ensures that pupils can secure key knowledge in specific subjects, before transferring and applying their understanding to new contexts and real-world problems. Without this secured understanding, pupils are likely to find it difficult to apply their knowledge to new situations and are at risk of developing misconceptions in the process.