National effort needed to increase school attendance post pandemic – Education Minister says

A national effort is needed to support the 1 in 5 children who are regularly missing school, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles has said today.

New draft guidance, ‘Belonging, engaging and participating’, has been published for consultation to support schools, pupil referral units, and local authorities in efforts to improve school attendance.

Prior to the pandemic, there had been a gradual rise in school attendance, but overall attendance figures have significant dropped since the pandemic. In the 2018/19 school year overall absenteeism figures stood at 5.7%. Provisional data for the 2022/23 school year to date shows this has risen to 10.5%. Persistent absence amongst pupils eligible for Free School Meals has more than doubled from 8.4% of pupils in 2018/19 to 18.8% of pupils in 2022/23 to date.

The consultation seeks views on the current definition of ‘persistent’ absence which is currently defined as more than 20%. This measure is often set as the trigger for certain kinds of intervention such as the involvement of the Education Welfare Service. The consultation will review whether lowering the threshold for intervention would better support families.

In the last year, the following measures have also been taken:

£6.5 million for financial year 23-24 for more Family Engagement Officers to establish positive relationships with families, and provide clear guidance and information on good attendance.
£2.5million for financial year 23-24 for Education Welfare Officers to enable the service to provide earlier support, before issues escalate, and also to provide more intensive support to learners with high absence.
Updating the All Wales Attendance Framework
Estyn have strengthened their reporting requirements on pupil attendance
All schools required to publish or make available their attendance polices
The reintroduction of Fixed Penalty Notices, but only as a last resort
Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said: “Attendance figures have not recovered since the pandemic in a way we would have hoped – it needs a national effort to tackle the ongoing attendance issue.

“Improving school attendance must been seen as a national priority. We know there are a range of reasons or underlying causes for learner absence, and that this has been further exacerbated over the last two years.

“There is a well-established link between attendance, attainment and wellbeing. My priority, above all else, is to ensure that every young person has the opportunity to reach their full potential. Tackling learner absence is key to this.

“Schools are doing excellent work, but they can’t do this on their own. Learners need to be attending school, seeing their friends, and learning in the classroom. This is vital for their wellbeing, their education, and their future prospects. Parents and carers should be doing absolutely everything they can to ensure their children are in school. It’s the best way to give them the start in life and the future they deserve.

“I would urge families, schools and relevant parties to have their say to help shape this important piece of guidance we have published.”

The consultation will run until July 20th and can be found here Belonging, engaging and participating | GOV.WALES

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