Mind responds to Education Select Committee report
Today, the Education Committee has published a report into persistent absence and support for disadvantaged pupils, following an inquiry it held earlier this year to address rising levels of school non-attendance.
Statistics from the last academic year have revealed that absence rates reached an all-time high of 7.6%, with 22.5% of these pupils being persistently absent from school and 2.1% being counted as unauthorised. This is particularly concerning considering pre-pandemic levels were only around half of this.
The report sets out a list of recommendations for the UK government to action including introducing new statutory guidance for schools to improve attendance from September 2024, setting a new framework for fines and legal intervention, nationally rolling out attendance mentors to provide stronger family support, providing Senior Mental Health Lead training to all schools and tackling barriers to attendance such as mental health, learning difficulties and poverty.
Nil Guzelgun, Policy and Campaigns Manager at Mind, said: “We welcomed the chance to contribute to the Committee’s inquiry and are pleased to see efforts made to reform the way in which school absences are managed. Mind’s own research has found that too many young people with mental health problems are being punished for not being well enough to attend school.
“We agree that the Department should introduce an authorised mental health absence code, to eliminate the need for medical evidence and prevent the frequent use of legal interventions. The Committee is correct in identifying that fines do not address barriers for families from low-income households, making them an inherently unfair way of incentivising school attendance. Of the parents who took part in Mind’s research, only 1 in 4 said that their child’s mental health absence was always authorised by the school, so this will help significantly.
“Children from all backgrounds have a fundamental right to education as well as support for their mental health, which is why Mind has long been campaigning for a network of community-based support hubs. We urge the Department for Education to adopt the Committee's recommendations, which are a step in the right direction to make sure schools are welcoming and inclusive places for children with mental health problems."