Unauthorised school absences in Milton Keynes rise significantly since Covid pandemic

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It wreaked havoc on children’s education, figures show

After the coronavirus pandemic wreaked havoc on children's education, the number of pupils missing school without permission has risen significantly since before Covid-19, new figures show.

In Milton Keynes, 323,000 school sessions (6.8%) were missed in the latest spring term.

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The overall absence rate has also risen across the country, from 4.8% in the 2018-19 spring term to 7% last year. And every area in the country has seen the rate of unauthorised absences rise by more than 30% since 2018-19

Unauthorised absences from school have risen significantly since the Covid pandemicUnauthorised absences from school have risen significantly since the Covid pandemic
Unauthorised absences from school have risen significantly since the Covid pandemic

Department for Education figures show 86,000 of 4.7 million school sessions were missed without permission by pupils in Milton Keynes. It meant children in the area had an unauthorised absence rate of 1.8%.

The school day is split into a morning and afternoon session, with every child expected to attend all sessions.

In the 2018-19 spring term, the unauthorised absence rate was 1.1%, meaning it has increased by 64% during the coronavirus pandemic.

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Nationally, 2.3% of pupils missed school in the spring, almost double the 1.2% who were absent from lessons in 2018-19.

The Association for School and College Leaders said attendance is "one of the biggest challenges" schools must face.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the ASCL, said factors causing rising absence rates include mental health issues, exacerbated by the pandemic, a lack of support for children with special educational needs, with schools lacking resources to deal with them, and the cost-of-living crisis, with 30% of children growing up in poverty.

"It will take concerted government action to address these issues, all of which are linked to high levels of pupil absence, and ensure all children are getting the support they need at the right time," she said.

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A Department for Education spokesperson said action is being taken to increase attendance.

"We have expanded our attendance hubs, which will support over 400,000 pupils across 14 hubs and provided a toolkit for schools about communicating with parents on this issue.

"Our mentoring programme, delivered by Barnardo’s, sees trained mentors work directly with 1,665 persistently and severely absent children and their families to understand and overcome the barriers to attendance and support them back into school."

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