Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders comments on the publication of an Ofsted report into attendance levels in schools.
“Ofsted’s findings in this new report are sensible, albeit rather obvious. All schools are acutely aware of the factors that affect good attendance and already work very hard to address the issues they come across.
“Disruption during the pandemic has created new problems for schools over managing attendance, including students fearing family members becoming ill if they go into school and seeing their parents under more stress or facing financial hardship. Attendance for some older students has been affected by concerns about whether exams might be cancelled.
“It is also worrying to note a new trend, with some students failing to recognise the crucial importance of being in school as a result of experiencing remote learning at home during the periods of lockdown.
“The wider problem, however, is government cuts to local authority funding which have denuded the support that is available to schools over attendance. In addition, school budgets have been under huge pressure for several years because of government austerity and this has, in many cases, affected things like pastoral support for pupils which can help to address poor attendance.
“To be clear, schools strive to minimise the impact of funding pressures but ultimately they can only afford what they can afford. It is also the case that many children face a range of challenges, such as poverty, mental health issues, and special educational needs which have not been sufficiently addressed and supported by the government, and that all these factors can impact on attendance.”