Last reviewed 26 January 2022

In an attempt to end what it calls the postcode lottery in how schools manage avoidable absence, the Department for Education (DfE) has launched a consultation on measures to improve the consistency of school attendance support and management.

Available here, and open for comments until 28 February 2022, the consultation proposes that all schools should have robust policies detailing how they will support pupils to attend as regularly as possible.

It also sets out how legal intervention, including penalty notices, should be used in promoting good attendance by local authorities.

The number of pupils persistently absent increased to 501,642 in secondary schools in autumn 2020, the DfE highlights, compared with 454,167 in 2019, not including non-attendance in Covid circumstances.

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said:  “Absence due to Covid is unavoidable, but there are other reasons children miss out on school too. Our new proposals will end the postcode lottery of how attendance is managed in different schools and parts of the country, and make sure every child and family gets the best possible support to attend school as regularly as possible.”

The latest data show a radically different approach to sanctions across the country, with some local authorities issuing no fines in 2020/21, while others issued over 1500.

The new standards will make sure interventions such as fines are always used when all other options have been explored.

Schools are being asked from 26 January to sign up to a new daily attendance data collection trial. Data will be gathered directly from school registers, reducing administrative work and potentially helping schools, academy trusts, local authorities and central government spot and address system-wide issues more quickly if the trial is successful. 

As part of the plans to tackle avoidable absence, local authorities and academy trusts will be expected to have plans for how they will provide targeted support for pupils who need it and work with schools to help spread best practice across the school system in driving good attendance.