Children’s commissioner sets '100 per cent attendance target' for schools

Joe Lepper
Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Children’s commissioner for England Rachel de Souza has set an “ambitious goal” for schools to ensure there is “100 per cent attendance on the first day of the September 2022 term”.

If a child misses the first day of school, it is harder to catch-up, de Souza says. Picture: Adobe Stock
If a child misses the first day of school, it is harder to catch-up, de Souza says. Picture: Adobe Stock

She says this is “not an arbitrary target” and hopes that government measures to create a live tracking system will help improve attendance significantly next term.

“Lack of information should never be a barrier to keeping children safe and ensuring they receive a high-quality education,” said the commissioner.

Other improvements she wants to see in place are for children and families to be better involved in decisions about pupils’ education.

She also wants more support for children within schools to tackle the reasons behind poor attendance and ensure children receive “good quality education provision at all times” when excluded or suspended.

Headteachers and local authorities need to work together to improve attendance, she added.

In addition, action is needed to ensure young carers do not miss school due to their family responsibilities, said de Souza.

She wants to see young carers better identified and supported and for schools to appoint a “champion” to support them. Young carers should also be eligible for pupil premium funding, added de Souza.

“For years, young carers have consistently said how having someone to talk to in school, and support to help them balance caring with learning can make a huge difference,” said Miriam Martin, chief executive of carers charity Caring Together.

“The measures being called for would be extremely effective at changing the experiences of the hundreds of thousands of young carers across the country.” 

The measures are being called for by de Souza in her report The Voices of England’s Missing Children. This follows up her March report on pupil absences Where are England’s Children, which called for better real time data on attendance.

“I believe being in school is not only the best place for children to thrive, be safe and happy and learn, but it’s also overwhelmingly what children tell me they want for themselves,” de Souza said.

“Because we know that if a child misses the first day of term for whatever reason it is much harder to catch up and build good attendance, I want them in school for that first day back in September being welcomed, supported on the start of the best adventure of their lives,” she added. 

One 15-boy at a special school interviewed for de Souza’s report said: “It would be nice if staff looked for signs of someone needing help.”

Elsewhere, a 10-year old primary school pupil said: “My attendance has been quite low, my mum had to talk to a welfare officer. My sister keeps running away from home, it makes me really upset, I really do like coming into school.”


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