New crackdown on children skipping school as Zahawi says attendance ‘non-negotiable’

Education secretary is prioritising absenteeism in schools, reports say

Tom Ambrose
Wednesday 11 May 2022 23:13
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<p>Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi</p>

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi

A new “strict approach” to children skipping school in the wake of the Covid pandemic is set to be announced by the government.

Education secretary Nadhim Zahawi will demand schools crack down on absenteeism by producing plans on how they are dealing with the issue, the Daily Telegraph reported.

Writing in the newspaper, he said children attending lessons is “non-negotiable” as the government moves away from the current blanket approach to fining parents.

Schools in England will have to produce plans now they are operating at full capacity once again post-Covid, including new central guidance on issuing fines.

Mr Zahawi wrote: “There’s no doubt in my mind that being in school is crucial to a child’s learning and development. So we want schools to have an attendance policy that sets clear expectations for staff, pupils and parents alike.

“If children are routinely absent from school, it is going to do incalculable harm to their life chances. Having a strict approach, where attendance is simply non-negotiable, will help schools to deal with absenteeism when it arises.”

It is understood that driving up school attendance has been one of the education secretary’s main targets since he took over the department in September. The plans will be set out in the new Schools Bill, expected to be laid before parliament on Thursday.

A Department for Education source told the Telegraph: “The reason for fining parents is not to punish them financially – it is to get kids into school.

“If that blanket approach is not leading to attendance increasing, it is right to look at other ways to get children back in the classroom as well as fines. We are taking a zero tolerance approach to absenteeism.”

The number of fines issued to parents has fallen in recent months, with new standards to be issued on how councils are able to issue them.

The average fine given to parents is around £60. Fines will be issued on a case-by-case basis in future, rather than the current automatic ‘blanket’ approach.

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