‘Sector-led’ attendance hubs to tackle school absence rates

Expansion of hubs programme follows a pilot which 'achieved significant reductions' in absence

Expansion of hubs programme follows a pilot which 'achieved significant reductions' in absence


Academy trusts picked out by the education secretary will lead new attendance hubs aimed at slashing stubbornly-high absence rates by spreading “strong” strategies to keep pupils in school.

The Department for Education is setting up new “sector-led” school attendance hubs to offer free support on absence.

The scheme builds on a pilot hub launched a year ago by North Shore Academy, based in Stockton-on-Tees and part of the Northern Education Trust.

Trust chief executive Rob Tarn, an advisor on the DfE’s “attendance action alliance”, had called for the model to be replicated nationwide.

In an email to schools today, DfE said the pilot saw “some participating schools achieve significant reductions in their absence and persistent absence rates”.

The new hubs will be led by senior leaders in schools with “effective” and “strong” attendance practice, in some of the “largest trusts” in the country. Schools will share their strategies and resources.

Attendance action alliance minutes from a January meeting reveal how education secretary Gillian Keegan invited “a selection of trusts” to establish their own hubs, with “several” expressing an interest.

DfE said this week they are still finalising the lead schools.

Schools joining a hub will be expected to “revisit and revise” their systems and protocols for managing attendance and join half termly virtual hub meetings.

Primary, secondary, special schools and alternative provision providers wanting support should fill out an application form by May 8.

Schools will be matched based on the answers of the questionnaire, with the first meetings expected to be held “later this academic year”.

Questions include the overall absence rate, levels of persistence absence, Ofsted rating and whether they are in one of the government’s priority education investment areas.

Tarn told Schools Week: “It is exciting to see MATs step forward to create new partnerships spanning multiple phases and institution types.

“The more professionals we can engage in obsessive conversations regarding attendance the better.”

Government data from last month revealed how almost two in five disadvantaged pupils were persistently absent from school in 2021-22. This was more than double the rate among wealthier peers.

Pupils were more likely to be persistently absent in the north east (24.7 per cent), Yorkshire and the Humber (24 per cent) and West Midlands (24 per cent) and least likely in outer London (19.6 per cent) and inner London (19.7 per cent).

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  1. Suzanne Cox

    Would this be necessary if they hadn’t got rid of Education Welfare Officers who dealt with more than just school attendance matters but did huge amounts of work with a host of vulnerable children including those missing from education and those newly arrived in the country.

      • Alistair

        The easiest way to improve the absence rate would be to give permission for more absences which are currently not granted even though they could be if commonsense was applied.

  2. helen phillips

    I work in a specialist provision do they not think that send and semh are a big issue for absence students unable to cope in large schools and classes they need to sort out more funding spaces and faster diagnosis so that pupils have the right provision asap we have a waiting list!!!! It’s support not nagging that’s needed

  3. Phil Walter

    As a former Qualified Education Welfare Officer who worked in system that functioned to resolve these issues I am dismayed to see we are looking for a solution.
    As EWOs we were independent of schools, as some issues around poor attendance were problems within the school management. This system gave parents somewhere to seek support other than schools at the same time giving school a professional highly trained body of people to oversee attendance issues.
    What have they got now?