“Support for children, young people, parents and carers” needed to tackle school absence rates

20 October 2023 Uncategorised

The Commissioner has said “urgent action” is needed to tackle the issue of school absence rates, following the release of figures today by the Department of Education.

Chris Quinn, said: “The figures released today in relation to school absence rates are extremely concerning. We need to delve deeper into the data and understand the reasons behind why children are not attending school so that appropriate support can be put in place.

“There appears to be a lack of understanding about the specific causes of non-attendance and how these vary for different groups of children. They may e.g. include illness, mental ill health, bullying or other problems at home or in school, or issues relating to the impact of the Covid pandemic.  We are also aware of greater numbers of parents choosing to home educate since then.   

“I know that from speaking directly with children and young people, the culture in some schools can be a huge barrier. We need to create a more relaxed atmosphere – less stress on pupils and staff, with more focus on caring and nurturing environments –  we need to abolish unnecessary regimentation.   

“For children with special educational needs, anecdotal evidence indicates that lack of specialised support is a factor in absence rates and decisions to de-register children from school. We also know that anxiety and other mental health issues are a significant factor, particularly post-covid. A shortage of suitable school placements for children with SEN has  also been an issue.  

“These new figures are against a backdrop of cuts to counselling services in schools which are now, more than ever, proving to be a vital service in our schools. 

“We need a multi-agency approach to tackle this issue. Those responsible, across all departments and in the political sphere, must prioritise action and resourcing to address this extremely concerning situation.  

I intend speaking with the Education Authority and Department for Education on this matter to find out more about the implementation and impact of their Emotional Health and Wellbeing Framework, and am keen to receive an update on the Independent Review of Education.

“It is imperative that we look at this issue in a holistic way, address rights breaches and inequalities, while also recognising that the pandemic has exacerbated this situation.

“The need to work together more closely, and fully implement the 2015 Children’s Services Cooperation Act has never been more vital. The Act is designed to improve co-operation amongst Departments and Agencies placing a duty on them to co-operate in the delivery of services aimed at improving the well-being outcomes for our children and young people. 

“It is crucially important that urgent action is taken to support these children and young people, as well as their parents and carers.”