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School absence: Nothing beats knocking on doors

The solution to soaring rates of school absence is simple – but expensive. Is this why both Labour and the Conservatives have avoided it in their recently unveiled attendance plans? Geoff Barton explains
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One of the biggest problems facing schools at present – as readers of SecEd will know only too well – is pupil absence.

The figures are grim with the latest data (DfE, 2023) showing that a quarter of pupils in secondary schools (25.2%) were persistently absent – compared to 12.7% before the pandemic.

Both the Conservative government and Labour opposition have recently made policy announcements on this issue about how they intend to fix the problem.

Labour’s plans include empowering Ofsted to review absence as part of annual safeguarding spot-checks, equipping every school with funding to deliver early language interventions, increasing mental health support through dedicated counsellors in every secondary school, reforming the curriculum, and providing universal free breakfast clubs in every primary school.

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