To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment she has made of trends in absence rates of children with pathological demand avoidance.
The department does not collect data for pupils with pathological demand avoidance (PDA), a profile of autism. Therefore, we cannot accurately assess their current trends in absence rates. However, the department recognises the increase in absence generally for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). For pupils receiving Special Educational Needs (SEN) support, overall absence increased from 6.5% in 2018/19 to 10.0% in 2021/22. For pupils with a SEN provision statement or Education, Health and Care Plan, overall absence increased from 8.7% in 2018/19 to 12.1% in 2021/22.
On 22 November 2023, the department announced the Partnerships for Inclusion of Neurodiversity in Schools programme. This new programme, backed by £13 million of investment, will bring together Integrated Care Boards (ICB), local authorities and schools, working in partnership with parents and carers, to support schools to better meet the needs of neurodiverse children. The programme will deploy specialists from both health and education workforces to upskill schools and build their capacity to identify and meet the needs of children with autism and other neurodiverse needs. One of the key programme metrics will be attendance, as the department recognises that addressing unmet needs and making school more inclusive supports good attendance. The programme will be evaluated, and the learning will inform future policy development around how schools support neurodiverse children.
In 2022, the department published the ‘Working together to improve school attendance guidance’ to ensure greater consistency in the attendance support offered to pupils and families across the country. The guidance emphasises the importance of providing attendance support early and targeted to pupils’ individual needs. The guidance is available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/working-together-to-improve-school-attendance.
For pupils with SEND, schools are expected to have sensitive conversations with pupils about their needs and work with families to develop specific support approaches. This includes establishing strategies for removing in-school barriers to attendance, ensuring attendance data for pupils with SEND is regularly monitored to spot patterns and provide support earlier, ensuring joined-up pastoral care is in place, and referring pupils to other services and partners where necessary. These expectations, alongside the expectations placed on academy trust boards, governing bodies, and local authorities to work in conjunction with school staff to provide joined-up support for all pupils and families, is intended to ensure that pupils with SEND are supported to attend school regularly.
Statistics on pupil absence, including breakdowns of absence by characteristics, are available at: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/pupil-absence-in-schools-in-england/2021-22.