The number of schoolchildren regularly missing class has more than doubled since the pandemic, amid fears the lockdowns “normalised” truancy. The Mail has more.
Children’s Commissioner Rachel de Souza has issued a stark warning over a “crisis of attendance” as the number of ‘persistently absent’ children in England rose to 1.6 million.
The Department for Education’s ‘persistence absence’ rate measures the number of children missing at least 10% of school. Its latest figures show 22% of pupils were ‘persistently absent’ across the 2022/23 academic year – up from 10.9% prior to the Covid pandemic.
Ms. de Souza said the figures represent “the biggest problem facing us” as she shared fears that the pandemic, along with teacher strikes, has “normalised” truancy. The Children’s Commissioner also revealed that, of the total, a million children are missing school for reasons other than illness.
Seamus Murphy, chief executive of Turner Schools, blamed lockdown for “disrupting good habits” and slammed parents who have become “inclined to let children stay at home on a Friday”.
Secondary schools had the highest number of missing pupils, with more than a quarter persistently absent across the 2022/23 academic year.
A total of 27.1% of secondary schoolchildren missed at least 10% of classes, while the figure was 17.5% in primary schools.
Speaking on BBC’s Today programme, Ms. de Souza said: “We have to recognise just how big this problem is. I think we have got a crisis of attendance. I think we need to be far more systematic. Attendance needs to be everybody’s problem.
“If I was the Education Secretary I would be looking at the attendance figures first thing on a Monday morning and asking all my officials and making sure every professional was on it. This is the biggest problem facing us and it is becoming normalised.
“It costs time, it costs money, but it has got to be a national priority. Kids did so much for us during lockdown – they gave up their social lives and their time, we need to help get them back.”
Addressing whether teacher strikes had added to the issue, she added: “Absolutely. For the first time during lockdown, children suddenly realised schools could close and the strikes are just adding to that.
“The value of their (pupils) education is just not where it should be. I want the adults around the table sorting this out because it has got to be a national priority to get our children back to school.”
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