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DfE announces new measures to tackle avoidable school absences

The Department for Education has announced steps to drive down school absences and ‘end the postcode lottery of how attendance is managed in different schools and parts of the country’.

The Department is asking schools to sign up to a new real-time attendance data collection trial.

Data will be gathered directly from school registers, potentially helping schools, academy trusts, local authorities and central government spot and address system-wide issues more quickly if the trial is successful.

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.

New guidance has been released to help schools understand when and how legal intervention including penalty notices can be used to promote good attendance with a view to ensuring interventions like fines are always used when all other options have been explored.

The news comes on the back of recently released figures, showing that the number of pupils persistently absent increased to 501,642 in secondary schools in autumn 2020, compared with 454,167 in 2019, not including non-attendance in Covid circumstances.

The data also shows a radically different approach to sanctions across the country, with some local authorities issuing no fines in 2020/21, while others issued over 1,500. The new standards will make sure interventions such as fines are always used when all other options have been explored.