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Agenda item



Officers delivered a presentation to the Committee on school attendance in the post-pandemic era. In the discussion, the following points were raised:

  • Officers highlighted in their presentation, the national context behind school attendance. The Council had received correspondence from the Chief Executive of the Youth Justice Board, the Children’s Commissioner, and the Chief Medical Officer, acknowledging, pledging support for, and urging a focus on improving school attendance.
  • The Committee were told that one of the most damaging legacies from the pandemic was that there was now a generation of students out of the habit of attending school regularly, as a result of pandemic-related school closures.
  • The Committee were also told that sociologists’ initial predictions of attendance levels bouncing back afterwards, had not transpired. Instead, data had shown there had been an almost doubling of school absences overall, since the pandemic. Persistent absences also doubled over the same period.
  • A child not attending school above 90% of the time was the equivalent of an entire school year not in education over the course of a student’s career.
  • Emerging research illustrated particularly troubling trends, such as poor labour outcomes for the COVID generation, and a pattern of emerging workplace inequalities.
  • While all children were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, children from the most deprived areas were more profoundly affected than others. 
  • Officers delivered a demonstration of how they are able to analyse and collect live data.
  • In response to concerns from members that performance was decreasing and absences higher and more entrenched in Islington than statistical neighbours over recent years; and questions about how this was considered in the school reorganisation, officers responded that all factors were considered, of which there were many. One was that Islington had one of the highest deprivation rates in the country and there was a very strong link between deprivation and attendance. Another was there was some correlation between schools that had lower-rolls, and that those schools appeared to be struggling more. The issue was complex and spread across schools. During the pandemic, Islington’s attendance rate was above regional and national measures, but it had unfortunately reverted since then.
  • In response to questions from the Committee, members were told that traditionally, peaks in absence had been concentrated on years ten and eleven, but increases were now being seen across the board, including at primary level. While officers acknowledged members’ concerns that encouraging 100% attendance may place pressure on students, officers stated that it would be too much of a risk to encourage anything less. In terms of fines for school absences, the vast majority were for holiday time absences which parents were increasingly factoring into the cost of their holiday; the Department for Education (DfE) were pushing for parenting orders as an alternative but historically, officers had not found this approach to be particularly effective.
  • In response to questions from the Committee, members were told that schools make all reasonable efforts to contact and locate absent children and their families. They would also inform officers that can perform follow up visits should schools be unsuccessful in doing so. Each child’s circumstances were individual and considered; and form the basis of targeted support meetings in which the most appropriate means of intervention is decided.



Officers to provide the Islington statistics on emotional-based school avoidance. 


Supporting documents: