MPs launch inquiry into persistent school absence

Education committee intervenes after persistent absence soared to 23.5 per cent post-pandemic

Education committee intervenes after persistent absence soared to 23.5 per cent post-pandemic

Robin Walker MP

MPs will investigate absence from school and support for disadvantaged pupils, after official statistics showed persistent absence soared in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

It comes as the latest Department for Education attendance data also shows absence continued to rise in the last weeks of term last year, driven by illness, with one in seven pupils absent in the week commencing December 12.

However, early estimates suggest absence halved to around 7 per cent by last week.

The Parliamentary education committee has announced a new inquiry focusing on persistent absence, which will “investigate causes and possible solutions to the growing issue of children’s absence from school”.

DfE data published last year showed one in four pupils in England missed 10 per cent or more possible sessions in the autumn term of 2021, up from 13.1 per cent in 2019.

MPs will examine “links between pupil absence and factors such as economic disadvantage, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), ethnic background, and whether a child or a family member is clinically vulnerable to Covid-19”.

In autumn 2021, 33.6 per cent of pupils eligible for free school meals were persistently absent, compared to 20 per cent of pupils not eligible. Persistent absence among SEND pupils was 30.6 per cent, compared to 21.5 per cent for those without SEND.

Rates of attendance at alternative provision schools “will also be considered”.

The inquiry will look for ways to “better support pupils and their families both inside and beyond the school system to improve attendance”.

Inquiry will examine effect of breakfast clubs

It will also examine whether schools providing breakfast clubs, free meals, and after-school or holiday activities “can have a positive impact”.

Robin Walker, the former schools minister who now chairs the committee, said missing school “can seriously undermine a child’s education and future life chances”.

“My colleagues and I will examine what innovative methods school leaders may be employing to help stop children and their families falling into a habit of missing school, with the risk of such habits becoming a downward spiral towards ‘severe’ absence.

“We will look at how targeted support can help to improve attendance and seek evidence as to what works both within and beyond the school system to create a positive culture of attendance.” 

The committee is inviting written submissions of up to 3,000 words addressing absence of disadvantaged pupils and those with other characteristics, as well as ways schools and families “can be better supported to improve attendance”.

A full terms of reference has been published online.

More from this theme


Hinds says ‘all schools’ restrict phones, and 5 more key findings

Schools minister also says the 'option' of statutory mobile phone guidance remains

Freddie Whittaker

CST calls for policy changes over ‘unsustainable’ parent complaints

Academy body says rise in complaints is putting 'significant pressure on school leaders’

Jack Dyson

Poverty: Trusts spend six-figure sums to support ‘crisis’ families

News comes amid calls for chancellor Jeremy Hunt to hand out more education cash in next week's budget

Jack Dyson

Heads and teachers working longer despite workload push

Key government workforce survey reveals longer working weeks, less job satisfaction and more anxiety

Samantha Booth

Number of children ‘missing education’ rises a quarter

117,000 children were not registered at a school and not receiving a suitable education elsewhere at some point last...

Freddie Whittaker

‘Elite’ Star and Eton sixth forms reveal ‘clearing house’ careers role

Partnership between academy trust and top private school also opens new 'think and do' tank

Schools Week Reporter

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  1. sally nunwick

    1) More parents WFH so if their child is mildly ill, they’re more relaxed about them staying off
    2) We as a society are still very alert for covid symptoms so we err on the side of caution with coughs/high temp etc. and the strep throat scare didn’t help.
    3) There as no real sanction for parent going on holiday. I have had 6 families since September ‘needing to go to Pakistan as someone had died/dying/wedding’ and staying out for 3/4 weeks. They know there is no sanction beyond paying a £60 fine per child per parent (which you have saved x 5 by going in term time and hasn’t increased in YEARS). This is the same if you take your child out of school for a week’s holiday or a month -so where is the disincentive? There isn’t an increasing sliding scale for length of time or the number of times you have done it.
    4) For regular persistence absence there is no teeth in the system,. Eg the hoops we have to jump through to fine for this kind of low attendance are ridiculous as it’s classed as a parenting order. School Nurse/Early Help assessments blah blah – you can’t even get these people in to do assessments as they are so overloaded!
    5) The government white paper in which this was supposed to be tackled has been quietly dropped.
    6) Get me on the commission – I will tell them exactly why attendance has never recovered!