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Pupils: Absenteeism

Question for Department for Education

UIN HL5564, tabled on 19 January 2022

To ask Her Majesty's Government what support they are giving to the Children's Commissioner's inquiry to track down the thousands of children who have gone missing from school during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Answered on

28 January 2022

The department is very supportive of this work. Regular attendance at school is vital for children’s education, wellbeing and long-term development.

The Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, pledged to do this work at the inaugural meeting of the attendance action alliance, which was hosted by my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Education, on 9 December 2021. The Office of the Children’s Commissioner is updating the department on its progress, which will be reported back to the alliance. Where necessary, the department will respond to any recommendations.

To support the execution of their responsibilities, the Children’s Commissioner has access to a range of department data sets. The department is also exploring how to improve the availability of attendance data with some urgency.

We welcome the Children’s Commissioner’s focus on children missing from school. The department is committed to a form of local authority register for children not in school. This would 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.

The department continues to make clear that schools and local authorities should be identifying children who are persistently absent, or at risk of persistent absence, and is developing further plans to support them to return to regular education.