By Jaine Stannard, School-Home Support CEO
During the past few years, we’ve seen how the attendance crisis in the country is getting worse, not better. According to official statistics, 1.8 million children are persistently absent from school.
That’s too many children.
Too many children that could be left behind if the national attendance crisis is not resolved.
A proper education is really important for all children and young people so they are best placed to have the greatest opportunities in later life.
A lack of education can limit a child’s opportunities in the future but it also has consequences for their local communities and our society.
A population with limited education and skills will experience reduced economic growth and struggle to address complex challenges, fill jobs or maintain democratic institutions.
But why aren’t children in school?
The reasons behind school absence are complex and there are no quick fixes.
Poor housing is a major barrier to good school attendance. We saw situations like a mum who slept on the sofa so her children could take her bed and three siblings sharing an overcrowded room with no space to do homework or storage for their clothes.
Poverty affects families’ ability to get children to school too. Some families we’ve worked with struggle with the cost of transportation, uniform, packed lunch, etc. When they are on a stretched budget they face the difficult decision of choosing between sending children to school or feeding them.
Most parents want what’s best for their children but when they are struggling to pay for essential items, living in poor housing, unemployed or fleeing violence, getting children to school might not be a priority. Families need practical support now.
The holistic solution: A service of whole family support practitioners
Here at School- Home Support, a national education charity, we have been working through schools with persistently and severely absent children for nearly 40 years.
Our family practitioners provide bespoke whole family support to help understand and tackle barriers to good school attendance and engagement.
This year, we’ve launched our “Dig a Little Deeper” campaign calling on the Government to invest 90.2 million for a national service of family support practitioners based in schools to work with parents and absent pupils to unpick the barriers to good school attendance and break them down.
Recommendations to improve school attendance
Our remit is to improve attendance. We do this by building trust, resilience and skills across the whole family. That’s why we’ve released a set of recommendations in our briefing paper “Filling the gaps in family support to improve school attendance” to address the school attendance crisis through a service of whole family support practitioners.
These recommendations are based on the following principles:
- Targeted and bespoke support with parents/carers and children allows for long-term outcomes
- Consistent, tenacious support without time limits builds trusting relationships between home and school
- Working in partnership with the whole family improves school engagement, encourages independence and improves resilience
In conclusion, the attendance crisis within educational systems requires a stronger response from the Government and a solution that looks beyond the classroom and the individual child attendance rate. A whole family support approach is needed to address the challenges families face today and to get children back to school, ready to learn.