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New drive to try and help stop children from missing school

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New drive to try and help stop children from missing school

A drive is being launched to try and cut down on the number of children who are regularly missing school.

There will be 18 new attendance hubs across six regions, bringing the total to 32, in an effort to help nearly 2,000 schools tackle persistent absence, the Education Department said.

The hubs are run by schools with excellent attendance that share practical ideas with other primary, secondary, alternative provision and special schools in England who need help to boost their attendance.

These sites can include a range of schemes to back schools, pupils and their families such as breakfast clubs, extracurricular activities, projects aimed at improving their processes and analysis of attendance data.

Tackling persistent absence and getting pupils to return to school has been named as a “top” priority by Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel De Souza, who say school is key to a youngster’s start in life.

The Government is also going to put up to £15 million over three years towards expanding the attendance mentor pilot programme.

This is to provide direct intensive support to more than 10,000 persistent and severely absent pupils and their families.

The programme will see trained attendance mentors working in 10 further areas from September 2024.

A pilot programme, with Barnardo’s, is already running in Middlesbrough, Doncaster, Knowsley, Salford, and Stoke-on-Trent.

Intensive one-to-one support is offered to pupils who are persistently absent, alongside work with their families to find out why the child is skipping school.

This can lead to extra support, more intensive work with teachers or in some cases bridge-building between school and family.

Ms Keegan said: “Tackling attendance is my number one priority. We want all our children to have the best start in life because we know that attending school is vital to a child’s wellbeing, development, and attainment as well as impact future career success.

“I am hugely grateful to all our brilliant teachers, heads, and everyone whose worked with us to make the progress we’ve already made with 380,000 fewer children persistently absent.”

Ms De Souza said: “Every day counts: when children miss school, it’s not just about missing lessons, it’s also about losing valuable moments spent with their friends and teachers.”

She welcomed the Government’s announcements which coincide with a national communications campaign – called Moments Matter, Attendance Counts – that targets parents and carers with the importance of attendance for attainment, wellbeing and development.

She added: “I am hopeful that these measures will arm local authorities and schools with real-time information about school absence rates and provide vital support for children who face barriers to attending school.”

The Moments Matter, Attendance Counts campaign includes tips on where parents can look for support. There is guidance in a recent letter from health leaders, including England’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty, about attendance and mild illness.

It aims to help them as they decide whether to send their child to school or when to keep them home.

National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Paul Whiteman said it is right to prioritise tackling absence as the data on attendance remains “a real concern and too many pupils are still not attending school on a regular or frequent basis”.

Stressing that “schools need more than advice”, he said: “Over the last decade we have seen the crucial support services that used to step in and tackle persistent absence eroded and it is immensely frustrating that the Government is only now slowly beginning to realise the impact that has had.

“What we need to see is a much stronger commitment to restoring those services so that every family and child that needs support gets it quickly. This cannot be done on the cheap.”

The Government has also said it wants legislation in the coming months that will mean all schools will have to share their daily school registers.

It is hoped this could be part of revamping how schools record and share attendance data while also helping them to spot and support some pupils who are skipping lessons.

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