ASCL comment on Education Select Committee’s report on school absence crisis

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, responds to a report from the Education Select Committee, which states that better mental health and SEND support is required to tackle the school absence crisis.
“This report rightly recognises the major challenges we face in reducing absence rates following the pandemic. These problems are too complex for schools to be able to solve on their own. Mental health issues among children have been growing for a number of years and have clearly been exacerbated by the pandemic. Local support services are often overwhelmed, with pupils facing long waits to receive the help they need. There must be more focus across government on ensuring that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services provision has sufficient capacity to meet the needs of all children.
“The current system for supporting children with special educational needs is in a mess with huge deficits in high needs budgets and schools often left endeavouring to support these young people without the resources they need. While the government has published plans to improve SEND support, implementation is years away and – as the Education Select Committee chair points out – will only make the difference needed it is backed up with sufficient resources.  

“We also support the recommendation to make parliamentary time available to introduce a register of children who are educated at home. Virtually everybody in education has been calling for this measure for years and it even made it into the Schools Bill before that legislation was scrapped. It is unfathomable that we still cannot be sure of keeping track of children who are not in school.”