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Absenteeism

Question for Department for Education

UIN 126591, tabled on 21 February 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment his Department has made of trends in the levels of pupil absence from schools in (a) Romford constituency and (b) the UK; and what steps his Department is taking to help tackle pupil absenteeism schools.

Answered on

1 March 2022

Detailed pupil absence data is collected as part of the school census and published on a termly basis. All absence data for England, including data at regional and local authority level, is available via the national statistics releases: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk.

Data from autumn term of academic year 2020/21 shows that Romford had an overall absence rate of 3.9%, whilst 12.4% of sessions were recorded as pupils not attending in circumstances related to COVID-19. During this time, nationally, the overall absence rate was 4.7% and 7% of sessions were recorded for pupils not attending in circumstances relating to COVID-19.

The table below shows full year absence data for Romford compared to national. School census data was not collected in academic year 2019/20 because of the disruption to face to face education caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

2016/17

2017/18

2018/19

Romford

National

Romford

National

Romford

National

Overall absence rate

4.6

4.7

4.5

4.8

4.3

4.7

Persistent absence rate

10.7

10.8

10.6

11.2

9.8

10.9

To support stronger attendance, the department has a comprehensive attendance strategy to ensure that absence is minimised. We are continuing to closely monitor absence levels and trends.

My right hon. Friend, Secretary of State for Education, has established an 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 Attendance Action Alliance has pledged to take a range of actions to remove barriers preventing children attending school. Full details of the work being taken forward can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/groups/attendance-alliance-group.

We need to ensure the lessons learned during the COVID-19 outbreak help us strengthen and improve the school attendance system to ensure the absence facing us today does not become perpetual. Therefore, the department is also reviewing the system as a whole. As part of this, we have recently launched an attendance consultation which seeks views on proposals to build on schools, trusts, and local authorities existing work for attendance and improve the consistency of attendance support for families across England. Information on this is available to view here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/school-attendance-improving-consistency-of-support.

The department has also appointed a team of expert attendance advisers. The advisers are working closely with a number of local authorities and multi-academy trusts (MATs) who are keen to improve their attendance practice and reduce persistent absence. They will support MATs and local authorities to review their current approach and help them to develop an action plan to improve.

The department continues to make clear that schools and local authorities should identify pupils who may be disengaged from education and develop plans to re-engage them.