We must address the soaring levels of persistent absence at secondary level. But when the most persistently absent children are so often those with the most complex needs, blunt approaches will not work, says Octavia Holland

For the vast majority of children, attending school has huge benefits beyond academic achievement: social skills, sports and arts opportunities, developing communication skills and building confidence to name a few.

But the number of children persistently absent has been steadily rising and this has worsened throughout the pandemic. In autumn 2020, the number of secondary-age children who were persistently absent (missing more than 10% of school) increased to 501,642 (16.3 per cent), not including Covid-related absence. This is up from 454,167 in 2019. Interestingly, in primary schools, persistent absence has fallen to 9.9 per cent from 11.2 per cent over the same period (DfE, 2021).

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