Mike Reader, the Labour Party candidate for Northampton South in this years general election, has called out a worrying rise in children slipping through the education system. Long-term absenteeism is skyrocketing year on year as the Council and Government fail to get control of West Northamptonshire’s education services.
Latest Department for Education figures on persistence absence shows an entire school’s worth of children in West Northamptonshire are expected to miss half their lessons this year (1,423) with that number rising to 2,233 children by 2026.
A child is deemed persistently absent if they miss 10 per cent of lessons or more, and severely absent if they miss 50 per cent of lessons or more. Over the course of a year missing ten per cent of lessons would equate to four weeks’ worth of schooling, while missing half is the equivalent of missing four months of school.
This stark warning comes after new research from the Centre for Social Justice revealed that more than one in four parents think that school isn’t essential every day.
On announcement of the figures from the Government, Mike Reader, Labour’s parliamentary candidate in Northampton South, raised concern over West Northamptonshire Council’s handling of truancy and absenteeism in the area’s schools.
“Between 2016 and 2022, the number of children missing half their lessons trebled across the area, with an increase of around 75% in that time period. This will continue rising unless urgent action is taken.
“I hear from parents every week about their struggles with the education service provided by our Conservative-run council. Whether it’s parents struggling to secure support for SEND children, children facing journeys of over an hour to get to school due to bus route cuts or families been let down by the Council and simply being forgotten by the system, there’s a major issue here that no one seems to be taking seriously. ”
The Labour Party has pointed out that there are quick steps that can be taken to address the issue. This includes creating a new register of pupils who are electively home schooled as part of a new package of measures to get to grips with persistent non-attendance and restore flagging public trust in England’s schools.
Other measures proposed by Labour include:
- Using AI to spot trends in absence by joining up existing records for children to improve coordination between education, social care and the wider services that support families, while busting bureaucracy for parents.
- Equipping every school with funding to deliver evidence-based early language interventions to ensure every child develops the strong foundation in speech and language development that sets them up to achieve.
- Increasing mental health support through dedicated counsellors in every secondary school and putting mental health hubs in every community.
- Reforming the curriculum to deliver a better foundation in reading, writing and maths, while ensuring that children do not miss out on music, sport, art and drama.
- Providing universal free breakfast clubs for every primary school pupil in England to boost attendance across the country.
Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:
“Every day of education matters for our children’s life chances: that’s why tackling severe absence would be mission critical for Labour in government.
“The Conservatives have allowed the persistent absence crisis in school attendance to spiral out of control and have no plan to get children back to school.
“Labour’s long term plan will tackle the reasons children are out of class, with mental health counselling, breakfast clubs and a register of home-schooled children, funded by ending tax breaks for private schools.
After a decade of Conservative-driven decline, Labour will put education at the heart of national life to give our children a bright future once again.”