DfE expands schemes to boost school attendance

Amrit Virdi
Monday, January 8, 2024

A scheme run by Barnardo's that places mentors in schools with low pupil attendance is set to be expanded with funding from the Department for Education.

The government is aiming to tackle the problem of persistent school absence. Picture: Monkey Business/ Adobe Stock
The government is aiming to tackle the problem of persistent school absence. Picture: Monkey Business/ Adobe Stock

The £15 million DfE investment announced today (Monday 8 January) is to be used over the next three years to help areas struggling with pupil attendance.

In addition to the mentor scheme, the funding will enable 18 new attendance hubs across six regions to be opened, bringing the total number to 32 hubs working with around 2,000 schools to tackle persistent absence.

The attendance mentor programme led by charity Barnardo's will also be expanded to see trained attendance mentors working in 10 additional areas from September 2024. Set up in 2022 as a three-year pilot, the scheme provides intensive one-to-one support to persistently absent pupils and their families.

Attendance hubs are run by schools with good attendance levels who share advice with other educational settings.  

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “Tackling attendance is my number one priority. We want all our children to have the best start in life because we know that attending school is vital to a child’s wellbeing, development, and attainment as well as impact future career success.”

Children’s commissioner for England, Rachel De Souza said: “I very much welcome the government’s announcements today which include the recommendations made last year in my report on school attendance.

“I am hopeful that these measures will arm local authorities and schools with real-time information about school absence rates and provide vital support for children who face barriers to attending school.”

However, Daniel Kebede, general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The proposed extension of the attendance hubs programme, like the behaviour hubs and Mental Health Support Teams, is too little too late for many children and young people.

“The programme supports only 10 per cent of schools - nowhere near enough to tackle the extent of the problems. Similarly, the proposed extension of the attendance mentoring scheme, piloted in a mere five areas, will not begin for another nine months. Young people and schools need support now.”

The Labour party has also set out its own policies for tackling pupil absence.

Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson set out plans for free breakfast clubs for primary schools, better mental health support for pupils and increased funding for speech and language interventions at an event at the Centre for Social Justice. 

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