Absences in schools 50% higher than pre-pandemic, driven by anxiety and lack of supports says councils

School absences increase as school budgets are tightened and support staff are being let go

Rhys James
9th May 2023
Image Credit: Rawpixel
Local councils in England are saying that the increase in school absences is because of increased anxiety and lack of mental health support following the pandemic. Budget cuts in the past year have forced schools across the country to reduce their numbers of school support staff, with some school even resorting to disguising their attendance records to manage students out of classrooms.

As schools tackle the issue of increasing absences, parents are becoming more cautious about sending their children to school with minor illnesses such as a cough or cold as a direct result of the public health messaging during the pandemic.

The most recent data from the Department for Education (DfE) revealed that the absences in the spring term of this year were 50% higher than before the pandemic, and in 2021-222, more than one in five of secondary pupils were “persistently absent” for missing 10% or more of sessions.

The Local Government Association (LGA) provided evidence for the cuts in pastoral support across England, stating that there are “increasing numbers of children in the mainstream school system with additional needs that can cause barriers to school attendance, including trauma, deprivation and poverty.”

The Department for Education have announced plans to help reduce the number of absences, including local authorities making greater use of legal powers to enforce attendance, however local councils are concerned that they do not have the capacity and resources within their school attendance teams to achieve the new goals, given the increasing number of schools they will be working with. For example, Essex council have said that the DfE’s plans would require it to have 40 attendance officers, compared with the eight it can afford to employ.

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