Half Term gives young people the opportunity to relax and reenergise following the first few weeks back at school of 2024.  School leaders and teachers will be hoping that students will return to school refreshed and ready to learn but for a growing number of young people attending school regularly has become a complex issue.

In November 2023 the Children’s Commissioner’s report called ‘Missing Children, Missing Grades’ highlighted some concerning trends in student absence:

  • School absence has become endemic in Key Stage 4. Over the last couple of years, over a third of all pupils in Key Stage 4 were either persistently or severely absent for at least one year.
  • Poor attendance has a dramatic relationship with GCSE results. While 78% of all children who were rarely absent in both years passed at least 5 GCSEs including English and maths, only 36% of children who were persistently absent in both years and just 5% of children who were severely absent in both years reached this same standard.

It’s clear that there are strong links between attendance and attainment which makes this issue one of the most important challenges for us to resolve for young people.

In response to the problem ImpactEd launched an ‘Understanding Attendance’ project to help schools identify the underlying drivers of pupil absence and in turn support them look at possible solutions.  The project has analysed data from 200,000 pupils, alongside surveys from 30,000 young people and there are some positive early findings that schools can lean on.

  • Firstly, a sense of school belonging is a key driver of attendance.  Young people want to feel connected to their schools, be comfortable in their surroundings and free to be themselves. 
  • Having a strong pupil voice is important.  Young people feeling like they can have ownership over decision making and influence over the direction of travel the school is taking is important for pupils to feel connected.
  • Wellbeing and safety is vital for all young people but data shows that we need to look carefully at the transition from year 7 to year 8 to ensure all students feel supported at that important time.

I believe that young people attending school isn’t just an issue for schools but something that needs collaboration across sectors, organisations and communities to help resolve some of the challenges.  As an example Youth Work is a powerful tool that supports a young person’s personal, social and educational development.  Our Youth Workers build trusted relationships with young people that allow them to feel connected to their community, have a voice in society and provide safe environments for young people to thrive. 

Youth Workers at the Youth Zone will continue to support young people who face challenges around attending school consistently but we all have to do as much as possible to ensure that young peoples futures are bright!

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