ASCL Cymru comment on Education Minister’s statement on attendance

Eithne Hughes, Director of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) Cymru, responds to the statement by Jeremy Miles, Minister for Education and Welsh Language, following Estyn’s report on attendance in secondary schools.
“We welcome the modest improvement to attendance rates in the past 12 months but agree with the Minister that there is still an awfully long way to go. There has been an average of one pupil in every ten missing out on vital education each day this academic year and schools need more support from Welsh government and local authorities in tackling this problem. More attention must be given to addressing the underlying causes of why pupils are persistently absent – such as poor mental health, unmet special educational needs and families struggling to cope with a range of socio-economic pressures – and targeted support must be made available.
“Schools cannot fix this problem alone. They are doing everything they can in an environment in which funding levels are inadequate and there are staffing shortages. This is not something that can be done on the cheap and it’s concerning that, rather than signalling their intentions to provide the investment required to tackle this issue, Welsh Government appears to be preparing for cuts across the system. It’s difficult to see how attendance rates can return to pre-pandemic levels under these circumstances.”