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Rob Devey
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Email: press.office@naht.org.uk 

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NAHT responds to education secretary's comments about pupil absence on Fridays

Responding to comments by education secretary Gillian Keegan about parents keeping children off school on Fridays, Paul Whiteman, general secretary at school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“School attendance is vital, and parents taking children out of school on Fridays, or any day, disrupts their education and also that of their classmates when teachers have to help them catch-up. However, it is misleading to suggest that current rates of absence can simply be explained by parents allowing children time off school on a whim.

“The issues we are seeing are the result of not just the pandemic, but a decade of government austerity in which support for families has effectively been rationed. Children are not getting the help they need with challenges in their lives - from poverty and mental ill-health, to insecure housing and special educational needs – and this affects school attendance. We should be particularly concerned about those pupils who are frequently and persistently absent from school.

“Far more government investment is needed to tackle the problem, with large areas of the country still not benefiting from attendance hubs or the pilot mentoring programme for those pupils most often missing school.

“More money is desperately needed for stretched community services like children’s mental health and social care, - including for staff who work directly with families like education welfare officers, whose roles have disappeared amid government funding cuts.”

First published 10 May 2024