The Government needs to ensure that councils have enough funding and powers to help ensure that all children are able to access full-time education, local authority leaders say.
A new report on school attendance by England’s Children’s Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, estimates there were 1.7m pupils persistently absent in the autumn 2021 term compared to over 900,000 children in autumn 2020.
The Children’s Commissioner identified a number of factors causing absences from school, including bullying, poor mental or physical health, and poor local Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) provision, and said these were ‘flags that the education and care system is not working for every child in England.’
Responding to the report, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, chair of the Local Government Association’s (LGA) Children and Young People Board, urged the Government to do more to help councils provide ‘wraparound’ support for children.
‘Councils want to ensure every child attends school, however the safety net that schools and councils provide to ensure that children do not miss out on their entitlement to education is stretched to capacity, exacerbated by a lack of resources and powers available to councils to fulfil their statutory duties – which worsened as a result of the pandemic,’ said Cllr Bramble.
‘To tackle this, we would like the Government to work to raise the profile of children missing formal full-time education, and resource councils adequately to fulfil their responsibilities in ensuring all children receive a suitable education. This should include adequate funding for local services to work together to provide wraparound support for children’s mental health.
‘Councils also need powers to hold schools to account for the support they provide to pupils with SEND, to boost mainstream inclusion.’