Writing in the Telegraph, U.K. charity leader Sir Peter Lampl has attributed the increase in school absenteeism to remote work practices during the pandemic, underlining its effect on parents’ dedication to sending their children to school. Here’s how his article begins:
I’ve been working to improve social mobility for more than 25 years, having set up the Sutton Trust in 1997 and the Education Endowment Foundation in 2012 to open up access to the best educational opportunities for young people from low-income backgrounds. In all that time, nothing I have seen has concerned me as gravely as the current crisis in school attendance.
Nobody should be underestimating the scale of this problem right now. Even before the dark winter nights arrive, heralding the season of bugs and viruses, persistent absence (defined as pupils missing 10% or more of their lessons) has more than doubled relative to its level before the pandemic. A staggering 30% of secondary school pupils and 20% of primary school pupils are persistently absent from school. That translates into lessons missed that will never be caught up, and opportunities squandered that will never be recovered. It’s a disaster in waiting.
We need to address each of the complex problems behind this emergency. Firstly, we need to look at working from home – and to have an honest conversation about how the ease of moving your working day from the office to your kitchen table has, inevitably, affected the obligation parents feel about getting their kids to go to school. The children’s commissioner Dame Rachel De Souza recently told MPs there was “a huge amount” of absence on Fridays, when “mum and dad are at home”, that “wasn’t there before”. There’s no ignoring the link.
Secondly, there is clearly a pervasive sense that the school closures during lockdown have somehow undermined the social contract that saw parents insist that their kids made it into the classroom except when they genuinely couldn’t. Certainly, it is harder to make the case to parents that a missed day of school here and there really matters when not long ago schools were shuttered for six months. This attitude needs challenging, too.
Worth reading in full.