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COVID-19 continues to impact attendance

26 Jan 2022|11:52
Covid-19

Official figures published on 25th January 2022 show that one out of every eight pupils were off school on Thursday 20th January as Covid-related absences rose.

They also show that staffing issues are worsening with a quarter of schools seeing teacher and leaders’ absence rates above 15%. The disparity in the absence rate around the country has schools and unions appealing for further support with upcoming examinations for students as this is putting unduly high pressure on those pupils. The absence of staff and students has led to “disjointed learning and inconsistent teaching” as one CEO of an academy trust told the Education Select Committee.

This comes as a Department for Education consultation, which runs until 28th February, has been released to tackle the “postcode lottery” of avoidable absence in schools. The consultation would set national thresholds for sanctions, as local authorities currently issue fines at demonstrably different rates. The new consultation proposes that all schools have robust policies detailing how they will support pupils to attend as regularly as possible and sets out how legal intervention including penalty notices should be used in promoting good attendance by local authorities. Schools are also being asked from today to sign up to a new daily attendance data collection trial. Data will be gathered directly from school registers, reducing administrative work and potentially helping schools, academy trusts, local authorities and central government spot and address system-wide issues more quickly if the trial is successful. Another consultation on the long-awaited register of children not in school, will be released in the coming weeks.

This comes on the back of the Children’s Commissioner working with a number of local authorities to support the review into data and to step up efforts to support children that are persistently absent from school. Dame Rachel de Souza said “I am determined that we must get children back into the classroom. We must find those children who aren’t back in school, find out why they aren’t attending, and actively help them to find their way back in.” We welcome the evidence gathering and await the response that will ensure more pupils are able to access the support to access school.