We thought this inquiry might be of interest to parent-led organisations who are doing some really important research on why children don’t go to conventional school.

We are little rushed today, so we’re just going to lift some of the information on the inquiry from its own web page onto this post:

new inquiry by the Education Committee will investigate causes and possible solutions to the growing issue of children’s absence from school.

Government statistics have shown that covid-19 is likely to have had a damaging effect on school attendance. In the 2021 autumn term, the most recent period for which data is available, 23.5% of all pupils were persistently absent (defined as missing 10% or more of sessions) and 1.4% were severely absent (meaning they missed at least 50% of sessions). In the 2018/19 academic year, the figures for persistent and severe absence were 10.9% and 0.8% respectively. 

The cross-party Committee of MPs will also examine links between pupil absence and factors such as economic disadvantage, special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), ethnic background, and whether a child or a family member is clinically vulnerable to covid-19. Rates of attendance at alternative provision schools, typically for pupils who cannot attend a mainstream school due to behavioural or SEND-related issues, will also be considered. 

The Committee will question experts and education sector leaders on the Government’s proposals to improve schools’ data collection on attendance. Ministers also propose introducing a new national framework for the use of fines for absence. 

The inquiry will look for ways to better support pupils and their families both inside and beyond the school system to improve attendance. It will also examine whether schools providing breakfast clubs, free meals, and after-school or holiday activities can have a positive impact. The Committee has previously supported the use of attendance mentors and will seek evidence on how the Government’s pilots of attendance mentoring could help. 

Disadvantaged pupils are more likely to miss school. The latest national statistics showed 33.6% of pupils who were eligible for free school meals were persistently absent in Autumn 2021, compared to 20.0% of pupils who were not eligible. 

Furthermore, 30.6% of pupils who receive SEND support were persistently absent in Autumn 2021, compared with 21.5% for pupils who are not identified with SEND. 

Gypsy Roma pupils and pupils of Irish Traveller heritage had the highest rates of persistent absence in autumn 2021 (55.7% and 63.3% respectively), while Black African and Chinese pupils had the lowest rates (10.8% and 9.9%). Inner London had the lowest rates of persistent absence (19%) and the South West had the highest (26%). 

Terms of Reference  

The Committee invites written submissions addressing any, or all, of the following bullet points. Evidence should be submitted here by Thursday, 9 February 2023. Written evidence should be no more than 3,000 words.    

  • The factors causing persistent and severe absence among different groups of pupils, in particular:
    • Disadvantaged pupils  
    • Pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds  
    • Pupils with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND), and those who are clinically vulnerable to covid-19 
    • Pupils in alternative provision  
  • How schools and families can be better supported to improve attendance, and how this affects pupils and families who are clinically vulnerable to covid-19. 
  • The impact of the Department for Education’s proposed reforms to improve attendance.  
  • The impact of school breakfast clubs and free school meals on improving attendance for disadvantaged pupils.  
  • The role of the Holiday Activities and Food programme and other after-school and holiday clubs, such as sports, in improving attendance and engagement with school. 

You can access the page and full details here.

You can access the inquiry page here.