SEVERE ABSENCE FROM SCHOOLS AT RECORD HIGH – PERSISTENT ABSENCE UP MORE THAN 15 PER CENT

SEVERE ABSENCE FROM SCHOOLS AT RECORD HIGH – PERSISTENT ABSENCE UP MORE THAN 15 PER CENT

21st March 2024

MEDIA STATEMENT FROM THE CENTRE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

SEVERE ABSENCE FROM SCHOOLS AT RECORD HIGH – PERSISTENT ABSENCE UP MORE THAN 15 PER CENT

  • 158,000 children severely absent, missing more than 50 per cent of school
  • 1,689,000 children persistently absent, missing more than 10 per cent of school

Commenting on today’s Government release of the latest school attendance data – for Summer term 2023 – Beth Prescott, Education Lead at the Centre for Social Justice, said:

These record high figures for severe absence – with persistent absence back on the increase – confirm our worst fears that absence from school is becoming entrenched.

The latest government data for Summer term 2023 reveals 157, 722 children missed 50 per cent or more of their school time, up more than 12 per cent on the previous term. This is an increase of over 160 per cent since before the pandemic.

Persistent absence, where children miss more than 10 per cent of school time, is back up to 1,688,649 children, an increase of more than 15 per cent since the previous term and up more than 80 per cent since before the pandemic.

The data also shows that disadvantaged children are disproportionately affected, with children on free school meals more than three times more likely to be severely absent than their more affluent peers over the 2022/23 academic year. Given the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers is at its highest level in over a decade, crisis levels of severe absence will further entrench post-pandemic disparities.

The Centre for Social Justice first identified this crisis in our schools in 2021 since when the government has taken several welcome steps, adopting a number of CSJ recommendations. This has included making attendance guidance statutory from August 2024 and collecting more regular data to better monitor patterns of absence.

But Ministers need to get a much more urgent grip of his unfolding crisis, including the urgent roll out 2,000 attendance mentors and a National Parental Participation Strategy. Failure to get these children back to school will have enduring consequences for them, for wider society and for the economy.

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