Tackling Persistent Absence

16 Mar 2024
Young happy children sat on the floor at school with hands raised

The number of children persistently absent from school has doubled, with around one in five young people now missing 10% or more of their lessons. And rates of persistent absence are even higher among disadvantaged backgrounds, children with mental health conditions, and those with special education needs. This is not a problem that can be ignored or swept under the rug.

This alarming trend not only impacts their immediate education but also has far-reaching implications for their future opportunities and life chances.

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.

Liberal Democrats understand that education is the best investment we can make in our country’s future.  The reasons for absence are complex but we must make getting children back in the classroom a priority. 


That’s why, today, Liberal Democrats have passed new policy to encourage school attendance and support children who are struggling:

  • Understanding the scale of the problem: Place a duty on local authorities to maintain a register of children who are not in school, providing funding for them to do so. This will provide crucial data to understand the extent of the issue and target interventions effectively.
  • Mental Health Support: Provide a dedicated mental health professional in every school, ensuring that every child and parent has someone to turn to for help and support.
  • Expansion of Free School Meals: Expand Free School Meals to all children on universal credit, addressing the link between poverty and school absence.
  • SEND Funding: Tackle the crisis in Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) funding by providing extra funding to halve the amount that schools pay towards the cost of a child's Education, Health and Care (EHC) plan. Establish a National Body for SEND to fund support for children with high needs.
  • Young carers: Improve identification of and support for young carers, helping them balance their caring responsibilities and their education.
  • Permanently Excluded Pupils: Introduce a commitment that permanently excluded pupils must be placed with a registered provider.
  • Clear Guidance for Parents: Give clear guidance to parents on when their child should be off school due to illness, helping to reduce unnecessary absences.
  • Direct support: Roll out of a programme of education welfare officers and attendance hubs across England to work closely with families and schools.
  • Teacher Home Visits: Train more teachers to undertake home visits, addressing underlying barriers to school attendance and providing targeted support.

Making school somewhere children want to be: A new commitment to sports, music, drama, and art will make school a place that pupils want to go, fostering a positive and engaging learning environment.

Every child can achieve great things. By investing in education, supporting families, and prioritising mental health and wellbeing, we can ensure that every child has the opportunity to thrive and reach their full potential. 

Let us commit to building a future where every child feels safe, supported, and valued in our schools.




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