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Rose Tremlett
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07545 354363

Tom Niblett
Press officer
07970 907730

Email: press.office@naht.org.uk 

 

NAHT Cymru tell Senedd committee to prioritise learner absence support & halt further reforms

SCHOOLS must get the support they need to tackle learner absence issues in Wales, that’s the message from school leaders union NAHT Cymru.

Giving evidence at the Senedd’s Children, Young People and Education Committee yesterday (THURS), NAHT Cymru Director Laura Doel appealed to Welsh Government to halt the education reform agenda, allow schools to concentrate on their core business of teaching and learning and give them the help they need to get learners back in the classroom.

A NAHT Cymru survey on learner absence has revealed:

  • The top three reasons for persistent absenteeism were reported as illness (47%), mental health concerns (35%) and anxiety about coming to school because of coronavirus (24%)
  • Non-covid related absenteeism had increased for a majority of respondents (60%)
  • An increase in absenteeism has increased school leader workload, with 85% of respondents reporting this (61% increased, 24% greatly increased)
  • The main reasons for an increase in workload as a result of pupil absence were a lack of external support (61%) and lack of capacity (54%)

Persistent absenteeism was reported as more prevalent among students eligible for free school meals (48%)

As well as concerns over mental health and wellbeing of learners, exam anxiety and learners being out of the routine of being in school, some respondents, particularly from secondary members cited the cost of living crisis as a contributory factor for absenteeism with families struggling to pay for transport, clothes etc.

The majority of respondents had not experienced an increase in either levels of pupil deregistration or elective home education. However, 22% had experienced higher levels of pupil deregistration and 29% had experienced

During the session Ms Doel explained that learner absence needs to be made a national priority, that every effort should be made to work with families to bring those children back to school and that additional funding to ensure those support services have the resources to deal with the barriers identified with come back into school can be addressed.

Speaking following the session, Ms Doel added: “To much time and money is being spent on the next phase of the education reform agenda.  Schools are focusing on delivering the new curriculum for Wales, adhering to the new ALN legislation and trying to support learners through the current exam series. 

“Other manifesto commitments really need to take a back seat because without learners in the classroom, in front of their teachers, being supported by trained professionals and interacting in their peers, they are not getting the education they deserve. 

“We must ensure all children and young people have that opportunity to flourish and prioritise this over any plans to reform the school day or year.

“£2m spent on a pilot programme to extend the school day would have been better spent on the support services schools so desperately need to get their children back in class so they can concentrate on their core business of teaching and learning.”

First published 17 June 2022