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Greater investment in support for families key to addressing pupil absence says NAHT Cymru

Responding to new figures showing more than 16% of 11-15-year-olds were persisently absent from school in Wales in 2022/23, Laura Doel, national secretary at school leaders’ union NAHT Cymru, said:

“School is vital for children’s learning and social development. While it is concerning to see these stark figures, they echo what we hear from our members.

“Children and families, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, have been hit first by the pandemic and now the cost of living crisis, fuelling growing challenges with mental ill-health and anxiety among pupils. In some cases, there may also have been a shift in parental attitudes towards attendance.

“School leaders work hard to encourage pupils’ attendance but they alone are not always able or equipped to tackle some of the complex deep-rooted issues which act as a barrier to this.

“We need to see a coordinated, government-led strategy to ensure children and families get the help they need with challenges in their lives, supported by significant new investment. Small Welsh government schemes to provide family engagement officers have helped some schools, but this kind of support needs to be business as usual everywhere if it is to lead to sustained improvement across Wales.

“Other schemes to improve pupil attendance like mentoring, expanding the provision for schools to support pupils with ALN (Additional Learning Needs) and broader early help for families from local authorities and the health service all need to be considered if we are to combat this problem.”