National News

Parents keeping children at home due to disputes with schools

today 5

share close

Parents keeping children at home due to disputes with schools

Some parents are keeping their children at home due to disputes with schools, a headteachers’ union chief is to say.

John Camp, president of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), will warn that the “unwritten social contract” between families and schools is “fracturing”.

In a speech at the union’s annual conference on Friday, Mr Camp will call for a “change of tone” in the national conversation about education to ensure people “talk up” schools and colleges.

He will suggest that some politicians and commentators who are “constantly running down” schools and teachers are “helping to create a division”.

His comments come as a survey for ASCL found that nearly a third (32%) of teachers and school leaders have experienced pupils being absent this academic year because of a parental dispute with the school.

The poll by the Teacher Tapp app asked 8,411 teachers and leaders in state schools in England in January what reasons they had been given for pupils missing school this academic year other than for illness.

More than half (51%) said pupils had been kept home because they were tired after an event the night before.

Nearly nine in 10 (87%) said wanting to take a holiday during term time was given as a reason, while more than three in four (76%) pointed to family events.

Addressing more than 1,000 school and college leaders at the Arena and Convention Centre (ACC) in Liverpool, Mr Camp will say many headteachers are seeing “poor attendance” after the pandemic.

On the survey findings, the president of ASCL will say: “This is a hugely complex issue. But what I find alarming is those reasons which suggest absence from school may not be seen in the way it used to.

“And in particular, it is surprising that some children are kept at home because of a dispute with the school.

“Nearly a third of teachers and leaders say this has been given as a reason. When we look just at responses from headteachers – who are most likely to have a complete overview – nearly half say they have been given this as a reason for non-attendance.

“This is an extreme – but apparently common – example of the fracturing of that unwritten social contract.”

More than a fifth (21.2%) of pupils in England were “persistently absent” across the autumn and spring terms 2022/23, which means they missed 10% or more of school sessions.

This is more than double those who were persistently absent during the same period in 2018/19 (10.5%), according to Department for Education (DfE) data.

Last week, the DfE announced a package of measures as part of its drive to boost attendance after the pandemic, including increasing fines for unauthorised absences like term-time holidays.

Two in three (66%) teachers and school leaders surveyed by Teacher Tapp said pupils being too anxious to attend was given as a reason for non-attendance.

Mr Camp will say “tangible solutions” are needed, including greater investment in mental health support for children suffering from anxiety and depression, and more attendance support services.

But he will add: “I think something else is also needed. And that is a change of tone in the national conversation about education.

“An acknowledgement that everybody in public life must do more to talk up the many good things about schools and colleges, and to talk about teaching as the noble profession it is.”

Mr Camp will say some politicians and commentators are “far too quick to take potshots at schools”.

He will add: “It should surely be obvious that if we are going to tell parents that school is essential – that, to quote the Department for Education’s own campaign, “moments matter and attendance counts” – then education needs to be something that is held in esteem.

“And if politicians and commentators are constantly running down teachers and schools, and giving the impression that we can’t be trusted, then they’re helping to create a division.

“I don’t, of course, think that this, on its own, is the reason for that fracturing of the social contract that I spoke about.

“But it certainly doesn’t help. It creates a febrile climate. And when social media is added into the mix, things can get very nasty very quickly. As I am sure many of us have experienced.”

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan and Ofsted’s chief inspector Sir Martyn Oliver are due to address ASCL’s two-day annual conference in Liverpool on Friday.

Sir Martyn will tell school leaders that he is serious about the watchdog “doing better” as he launches a major consultation into its future direction.

Ofsted’s chief inspector, who took over in January, will pledge to put the interests of disadvantaged children at the heart of any reforms and will say “nothing is off the table” in the watchdog’s Big Listen public consultation.

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We proudly celebrate our hard-working teachers and school leaders who have helped us create a world-class education system. Education standards have risen sharply across the country, with Ofsted ratings up from 68% to nearly 90% since 2010 – while pupils’ performance is some of the best globally in international league tables.

“Good attendance is vital for such attainment, as well as for a child’s wellbeing and development. Thanks to our fantastic teachers, our package of wide-ranging reforms designed to support schools to improve attendance we are already seeing rapid improvement, with 380,000 fewer children persistently absent last year alone.”

Published: by Radio NewsHub

Written by:

Rate it