Politics

Zahawi unveils new 17-member ‘attendance alliance’

Academy trust leaders will also form a sub-alliance to identify best practice

Academy trust leaders will also form a sub-alliance to identify best practice

The education secretary Nadhim Zahawi has unveiled a new 17-member “attendance alliance” which will work to reduce absence from schools.

The group, chaired by Zahawi, includes schools minister Robin Walker, Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman children’s commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza and chief social worker Isabelle Trowler. It met for the first time today.

It comes after analysis obtained by Schools Week revealed almost one in five pupils is effectively missing a day a week in the worst-hit areas.

Zahawi recently ordered councils to tell parents that keeping their children off school has “repercussions” as he attempts to tackle rising absence rates.

Members pledged to work with their “members, stakeholders and the professionals they represent to make sure they are following best practice in improving attendance within their day-to-day work”.

Although Covid has had a big impact on attendance levels over the past two years, ministers are also concerned about non-Covid-related persistent absence, which rose to 16.3 per cent in secondary schools last autumn, up from the same period in 2019.

The members also issued a “joint call on all those that engage with children, whether as a parent, teacher, GP, police officer, social worker or anything else – to work together to break down any barriers they find to them being in school for every possible day”.

At its first meeting, the alliance looked at analysis of data and evidence compiled from member organisations, and consideration of “how members can exert their combined influence to address the issues identified”.

Departmental data was presented that showed persistent absence “can vary significantly across single areas, with some neighbouring local authorities having very different rates from each other”.

de Souza presented insights from her “big ask” consultation, while Spielman spoke about draft findings of an Ofsted review of best practice by schools due out in the new year.

The Northern Education Trust and Confederation of School Trusts, supported by leaders of special schools and alternative provision, will convene a new sub-alliance working group of trust leaders to “identify the best practice in supporting children to attend school regularly”.

Zahawi said: “Where children aren’t in school without good reason or don’t want to be in school something has gone substantially wrong and needs fixing. This new attendance alliance includes the people with the power to do just that.

“They will be working over the coming months to make sure everyone working on the ground with children, as a teacher, football coach, mental health worker or in any other role, has the tools and resources they need to break down barriers to children attending school.”

Attendance alliance: The members

Rt Hon Nadhim Zahawi MPSecretary of State for Education (Chair)
Robin Walker MPMinister of State for School Standards
Dame Rachel de SouzaChildren’s Commissioner
Isabelle TrowlerChief Social Worker for Children and Families
Amanda SpielmanHer Majesty’s Chief Inspector
Leora CruddasChief Executive, Confederation of School Trusts (CST)
Geoff Barton General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL)
Paul WhitemanGeneral Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers
Charlotte Ramsden OBEPresident, Association of Directors of Children’s Services
Dame Christine Lenehan Director, Council for Disabled Children
Sir Peter Wanless CB Chief Executive, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children
Susan Douglas CBECEO, Eden Academy Trust
Rob TarnCEO, Northern Education Trust
Professor Dame Clare GeradaPresident, Royal College of General Practitioners
Professor Peter FonagyNational Clinical Advisor on Children’s Mental Health, NHS England  
Ade Adetosoye OBEChildren and Families Spokesperson, SOLACE
Commander Catherine Roper Head of Profession for Crime Prevention, Inclusion and Engagement

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