Getting children back into school and attending consistently is an absolute priority for me. I want this for 100% of children, which means everyone has to play a role in making it happen and digging deep into the reasons why it is currently not happening.
Those reasons are complex – children might have special educational needs and need extra support, or a mental health disorder that makes being in school seem overwhelming, or they might have caring responsibilities for a parent.
Regardless, we are all agreed that being in school is the best place not just for their educational outcomes but also for their wellbeing and safety.
I welcome the steps announced today by the Government, which aim to intervene more quickly and earlier where there is poor attendance, or where it is identified as a risk. Many hundreds more children may be supported to get back into the classroom and back into stability.
Three years on from the coronavirus pandemic, we are still getting to grips with its impact on the education of children all over the country – and even before that seismic shift, there has been a group of children who struggled to attend school regularly.
Not only that, but my work on attendance since taking office has made clear that there are also some children who simply aren’t given the opportunity to be in school or get a good education. That could be because they aren’t enrolled at any school and are falling through the gaps in services, are attending an unregistered setting, or not being otherwise suitably home educated.
We need to look more deeply into the challenges children face in returning to school – in particular, those neither enrolled at school nor being suitably educated at home – and support them back into the classroom.
I have committed to a bold programme of work exploring how children end up out of education, the consequences, and the possible interventions, and will be responding to the call for evidence launched today with the outcomes of this work to date – including a particular focus on children in care, who are disproportionately represented among those missing school. I will be publishing new insights on their experiences using child-level data next week.
Attendance is everyone’s business, meaning all the adults in a child’s life – from parents and teachers, to social workers, GPs and other safeguarding professionals – have a responsibility to making sure they are in school, every day, ready to learn.