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 MP||Secretary of State for Education (Chair)|
|Robin Walker MP||Minister of State for School Standards|
|Dame Rachel de Souza||Children’s Commissioner|
|Isabelle Trowler||Chief Social Worker for Children and Families|
|Amanda Spielman||Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector|
|Leora Cruddas||Chief Executive, Confederation of School Trusts (CST)|
|Geoff Barton||General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL)|
|Paul Whiteman||General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers|
|Charlotte Ramsden OBE||President, 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 CBE||CEO, Eden Academy Trust|
|Rob Tarn||CEO, Northern Education Trust|
|Professor Dame Clare Gerada||President, Royal College of General Practitioners|
|Professor Peter Fonagy||National Clinical Advisor on Children’s Mental Health, NHS England|
|Ade Adetosoye OBE||Children and Families Spokesperson, SOLACE|
|Commander Catherine Roper||Head of Profession for Crime Prevention, Inclusion and Engagement|