Parents no longer believe their children need to be in school full-time if they are anxious, increasingly think “life’s too short” not to have a term-time holiday and “are not bothered” about fines for absence, a report has found. The Mail has the story.
Lockdowns have caused a “seismic shift” in parents’ attitudes to school attendance, according to the consultancy Public First, with it now “socially acceptable” to keep pupils at home and go on holiday in term-time.
The research suggests that pandemic closures and teacher strikes have damaged the social contract between schools and families, with 24,700 children missing education on one sample day in spring this year.
It comes after Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, suggested pupils have been missing school on Fridays since the pandemic because their parents are working from home. But Public First said did not find any evidence to suggest that the rise in parents working from home since Covid has encouraged more children to stay off school.
More children are also being home schooled than ever. Official figures show that 86,000 children in England were home schooled on one day this year – and 116,300 are home schooled full time. Both are steep increases of up to 50% on pre-pandemic levels.
One parent, called Dominique, says her son Elijah has been too “anxious” to attend school since “lockdown finished” – so he no longer goes.
She said: “Children were off for so long they were really nervous for starting school… especially my oldest son. He suffers a lot from anxiety and he’s got attachment issues so I felt as though it was more difficult for me to get my son to school.
“The first day I had to take him to school I sat outside until 3 o’clock because I felt that something was not right and something was going to happen.” …
The study – which highlights findings from focus groups with parents – comes amid mounting concerns about the rise in children missing school in England.
It will take a “monumental” effort to change parental attitudes towards full-time attendance, the report concluded.
It reads: “Pre-Covid, ensuring your child’s daily attendance at school was seen as a fundamental element of good parenting.
“Post-Covid, parents no longer felt that to be the case, and instead view attending school as one of several – often competing – options or demands on their child on a daily basis, against a backdrop of a more holistic approach to daily life.”
It continued: “Parents agreed that every school day could not possibly be that important, given that so much time had been lost to lockdowns and strikes.
“Moreover, there was a sense from parents that other elements of their lives were just as important as attending school, if not more so.”
More than a fifth (22.3%) of pupils in England were “persistently absent” – meaning they missed at least 10% of their school sessions – in the 2022/23 academic year, Government figures show.
This is significantly higher than the pre-pandemic rate of 10.9% in 2018/19.
Worth reading in full.