Tackling Persistent Absence

Policy motion

As passed by conference

Submitted by: 10 members

Mover: Munira Wilson MP (Spokesperson for Education and Families).

Summation: Zöe Franklin.


Conference believes that:

  1. Every child can achieve great things - they deserve the best possible start in life and the opportunity to flourish, no matter what their background.
  2. Liberal Democrats believe that education is the best investment we can make in our children's potential and our country's future.
  3. The Conservatives have consistently let down children and parents, neglected schools and colleges, and failed to grasp the scale of the pandemic's damage to children's learning and mental health.
  4. The current level of persistent absence, driven in part by the pandemic, is a national crisis which is doing untold harm to children's education and well-being as well as impacting their future life chances.
  5. Persistent absence is a very complex issue and a multi-faceted approach is needed to tackle the problem.

Conference notes that:

  1. One in five children are now persistently absent from school, missing 10% or more of their classes.
  2. Included in the absence figures are children who can not attend rather than will not attend - those whose social and emotional needs make attendance exceptionally challenging and in some cases impossible.
  3. Pupils who are eligible for free school meals or who are young carers are twice as likely to be persistently absent from school that those who are ineligible or who do not have caring responsibilities.
  4. NHS Data shows school absence rates are higher in children with a probable mental health disorder.
  5. The rate of persistent absence in special schools is significantly higher.
  6. Currently it is impossible to determine how many children have disappeared from the school roll as there is no register of children not in school.

Conference believes that:

  1. The costs associated with going to school such as transport, school uniform and lunch, as well as not having suitable costumes or clothing for themed and non-uniform days affect children's attendance.
  2. There is a growing crisis in mental health support for young people, a quarter of a million young people have been denied NHS support in the last year and the lack of any concrete mental health workforce planning means waiting lists in much of the country are longer than two years.
  3. The demand and expectations for SEND support exceed the current funding and capacity available, and the situation will continue to deteriorate rapidly unless substantial changes are made.
  4. Young carers should be proactively identified and supported with their education and their caring responsibilities so they can have the same educational opportunities as their peers.
  5. It is critical that the welfare and education of every child who is not in school can be monitored.
  6. In order to drive up attendance at school we need to make the classroom and school a place where children want to be.

Conference notes with concern that:

  1. A third of school-age children in England (900,000) living in poverty miss out on free school meals.
  2. When funding for mental health support teams ends in 2024, only half of secondary schools and a quarter of primary schools will have a team in place.
  3. Only half of children with complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) receive an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan within the 20-week limit, and 96% of SEND Tribunal cases are decided in the parents' favour.
  4. Forty percent of young carers report that they are not getting the help they need to balance their caring responsibilities and their education.

Conference therefore calls on the Government to:

  1. Enact legislation from the 'Schools Bill' that was abandoned by the Government, to place a duty on local authorities to maintain a register of children who are not in school and provide the funding for councils to compile these records.
  2. Introduce a commitment that permanently excluded pupils must be placed with a registered provider.
  3. Give clear guidance to parents on when their child should be off of school due to illness, as the pandemic has made parents unsure if it is appropriate to send their child to school if they have a cough or cold.
  4. Roll out a programme of education welfare officers and attendance hubs across England and train more teachers to be able to undertake home visits to work with families to understand and remove the underlying barriers to school attendance and make schools more inclusive.
  5. Introduce a commitment to provide pupils with an extracurricular offer within schools, including things like sports, music, drama, and art, drawing from best practice in the youth sector, so that school becomes a place that pupils want to go.
  6. Provide a dedicated mental health professional in every school, so every child and every parent has someone they can turn to for help.
  7. Expand Free School Meals to all children on universal credit.
  8. Tackle the crisis in SEND funding by:
    1. Giving local authorities extra funding to halve the amount that schools pay towards the cost of a child's EHC plan.
    2. Establishing a National Body for SEND to fund support for children with high needs.
  9. Improving identification and support for young carers by:
    1. Developing a cross-Government Carers Strategy with clear actions to improve support for young carers.
    2. Ensuring that all schools have a young carers' lead and a young carers' policy so that all young carers know what support is available inside and outside of school.

Applicability: England only.

Motion prior to amendment

Conference believes that:

  1. Every child can achieve great things - they deserve the best possible start in life and the opportunity to flourish, no matter what their background.
  2. Liberal Democrats believe that education is the best investment we can make in our children's potential and our country's future.
  3. The Conservatives have consistently let down children and parents, neglected schools and colleges, and failed to grasp the scale of the pandemic's damage to children's learning and mental health.
  4. The current level of persistent absence, driven in part by the pandemic, is a national crisis which is doing untold harm to children's education and well-being as well as impacting their future life chances.
  5. Persistent absence is a very complex issue and a multi-faceted approach is needed to tackle the problem.

Conference notes that:

  1. One in five children are now persistently absent from school, missing 10% or more of their classes.
  2. Pupils who are eligible for free school meals are twice as likely to be persistently absent from school that those who are ineligible.
  3. NHS Data shows school absence rates are higher in children with a probable mental health disorder.
  4. The rate of persistent absence in special schools is significantly higher.
  5. Currently it is impossible to determine how many children have disappeared from the school roll as there is no register of children not in school.

Conference believes that:

  1. The costs associated with going to school such as transport, school uniform and lunch, as well as not having suitable costumes or clothing for themed and non-uniform days affect children's attendance.
  2. There is a growing crisis in mental health support for young people, a quarter of a million young people have been denied NHS support in the last year and the lack of any concrete mental health workforce planning means waiting lists in much of the country are longer than two years.
  3. The demand and expectations for SEND support exceed the current funding and capacity available, and the situation will continue to deteriorate rapidly unless substantial changes are made.
  4. It is critical that the welfare and education of every child who is not in school can be monitored.
  5. In order to drive up attendance at school we need to make the classroom a place where children want to be.

Conference notes with concern that:

  1. A. A third of school-age children in England (900,000) living in poverty miss out on free school meals.
  2. B. When funding for mental health support teams ends in 2024, only half of secondary schools and a quarter of primary schools will have a team in place.
  3. C. Only half of children with complex special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) receive an Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan within the 20-week limit, and 96% of SEND Tribunal cases are decided in the parents' favour.

Conference therefore calls on the Government to:

  1. Enact legislation from the 'Schools Bill' that was abandoned by the Government, to place a duty on local authorities to maintain a register of children who are not in school.
  2. Introduce a commitment that permanently excluded pupils must be placed with a registered provider.
  3. Give clear guidance to parents on when their child should be off of school due to illness, as the pandemic has made parents unsure if it is appropriate to send their child to school if they have a cough or cold.
  4. Roll out a programme of education welfare officers and attendance hubs across England and train more teachers to be able to undertake home visits to work with families to understand and remove the underlying barriers to school attendance.
  5. Introduce a commitment to provide pupils with an extracurricular offer within schools, including things like sports, music, drama, and art, drawing from best practice in the youth sector, so that school becomes a place that pupils want to go.
  6. Provide a dedicated mental health professional in every school, so every child and every parent has someone they can turn to for help.
  7. Expand Free School Meals to all children on universal credit.
  8. Tackle the crisis in SEND funding by:
    1. Giving local authorities extra funding to halve the amount that schools pay towards the cost of a child's EHC plan.
    2. Establishing a National Body for SEND to fund support for children with high needs.

Applicability: England only.

 

Amendments

Amendment One

PASSED

Submitted by: 11 members
Mover: Andy McGowan.
Summation: Clare Tevlin.

After a) (line 19), insert:

b)     Included in the absence figures are children who can not attend rather than will not attend - those whose social and emotional needs make attendance exceptionally challenging and in some cases impossible.

In b) (line 20), after 'free school meals' insert:

'or who are young carers', and after 'are ineligible' insert 'or who do not have caring responsibilities'.

After iii) (line 42), insert:

iv)    Young carers should be proactively identified and supported with their education and their caring responsibilities so they can have the same educational opportunities as their peers.

In v) (line 46), after 'classroom' insert:

'and school'.

After C. (line 56), insert:

D.     Forty percent of young carers report that they are not getting the help they need to balance their caring responsibilities and their education.

In 4. (line 70), after 'school attendance' insert:

'and make schools more inclusive'.

After 8. (line 83), insert:

9.    Improving identification and support for young carers by:

a)     Developing a cross-Government Carers Strategy with clear actions to improve support for young carers.
b)     Ensuring that all schools have a young carers' lead and a young carers policy so that all young carers' know what support is available inside and outside of school.

 

Amendment Two

PASSED

Submitted by: ALDC
Mover: Lucy Nethsingha.
Summation: to be announced.

In 1. (line 60), after 'not in school' insert:

'and provide the funding for councils to compile these records'.