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Last week I published my latest report, Back into school: New insights into school absence – evidence from three multi-academy trusts, as part of my Attendance Audit. It is a deep-dive into autumn 2021 attendance, and I’m really excited that what we found confirmed just how important attendance in the first week in September is. Those who don’t attend in the first week of term experienced an overall unauthorised absence rate of 25% compared to an overall unauthorised absence rate of 2% for pupils who didn’t miss any sessions in the first week.

This follows my report, ‘Voices of England’s Missing Children’, where I have suggested solutions and practical ideas that young people themselves have identified that can make a real difference.

One thing I heard from children through this research was how scary the transition to ‘Big’ school from primary school could be. Children talked about being nervous moving from being the oldest to the youngest and leaving the familiar behind for the unfamiliar and one boy described not having any help with these worries. As one boy said:

“When I was in year six, I was anxious and there was no help” – Boy, 13.

I want all children to feel excited about this new chapter in their lives, our year six pupils shouldn’t feel anxious and alone. I know so many primary schools will be doing amazing work with their year six classes to help to build their pupils confidence and prepare them for this next stage.

To help schools and pupils I have created an assembly, for year six, with the Secretary of State for Education, where students can talk about what they’re excited about and any worries they might have. The assembly can be used by any school and can be edited with information specific to your school and pupils.

I have also compiled resources for schools, children and their families through my Back Into School webpages. These pages will continue to be developed throughout the summer with information, guidance and best practice examples.

I want every child to feel excited, confident and supported in September, no matter where they are going, from children just starting primary to young people going into their last year of college. I will continue listening to children and young people, learning how we can make education even better and working across all levels of government to see the reforms that children tell me they need, implemented.

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