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Labour plans to use AI to tackle school absence Labour proposes free breakfast clubs to tackle persistent school absence
(about 2 hours later)
More than one out of every five children in England are persistently absent from schoolMore than one out of every five children in England are persistently absent from school
The Labour Party says it will make tackling poor school attendance a top priority if it forms the next government. Better mental health support for pupils would be part of Labour's plans to improve school attendance in England.
Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson will set out a range of measures later. Shadow education secretary Bridget Phillipson will set out measures later, including free breakfast clubs for primary schools.
The plans include using artificial intelligence to spot trends in absence. The plans also include increased funding for early speech and language interventions.
This week, the government promised to extend the existing attendance-hub scheme to support a thousand more schools in England.This week, the government promised to extend the existing attendance-hub scheme to support a thousand more schools in England.
Labour's plans are being backed by Sir Kevan Collins, who resigned as the government's education catch-up tsar after failing to secure the funding he wanted. "Every day our children are in school is so incredibly important," said Phillipson. "It damages their life chances when they aren't there.
"So it's about that partnership we need to see between parents and schools, but also between schools and government, because governments have responsibilities as well."
Boost sport to get pupils back to school - reportBoost sport to get pupils back to school - report
School-absence fines make problem worse, MPs toldSchool-absence fines make problem worse, MPs told
One in five regularly misses school, figures showOne in five regularly misses school, figures show
Among Labour's plans to tackle persistent absence is the creation of a national register for home-schooled pupils, designed to track children who are not in mainstream schooling.
The proposals also include using Ofsted to review attendance data, and employing AI to spot trends in absence by linking with existing records in other services such as social care.
Ms Phillipson told the BBC these measures would be funded by "ending the tax breaks that private schools enjoy".
Department for Education (DfE) data shows more than one out of every five children in England are persistently absent from school - double the proportion before the Covid pandemic.Department for Education (DfE) data shows more than one out of every five children in England are persistently absent from school - double the proportion before the Covid pandemic.
Persistent absence means missing at least 10% of school days - about four full weeks from the academic year.Persistent absence means missing at least 10% of school days - about four full weeks from the academic year.
A Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report this week suggested more school sport could help but also found some parents thought children did not need to be in school full time. A Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report this week suggested more school sport could help, but also found some parents thought children did not need to be in school full-time.
The DfE says parents have a duty to ensure children attend school.The DfE says parents have a duty to ensure children attend school.
Labour's plans include:
a register for home-schooled pupils, to track those not in mainstream schooling
free breakfast clubs for all primary-aged children in England
Ofsted reviewing absence as part of annual safeguarding spot checks
using AI to spot trends in absence, linking with existing records in other services such as social care
more mental-health support in schools
giving schools more funding for early speech-and-language interventions
Ms Phillipson says a Labour government will make education its priority.
"For each of us, and for all of us, background must be no barrier to opportunity," she will say.
Bridget Phillipson will lay out Labour's plans to tackle persistent absenceBridget Phillipson will lay out Labour's plans to tackle persistent absence
On parents' role in improving pupil absence, Ms Phillipson said: "I think we also have to be clear that parents have responsibilities as well.
"It's about everyone involved working together, pulling together to make the difference that we need as a country because it damages us all.
"When children are not in school, it's not just those children who are missing out, but all of us as a society as well."
Labour's plans are being backed by Sir Kevan Collins, the former school catch-up tsar.
Sir Kevan highlighted the impact of the pandemic on school absence and educational attainment, calling the current situation "a real crisis".Sir Kevan highlighted the impact of the pandemic on school absence and educational attainment, calling the current situation "a real crisis".
"Covid has cast a long education shadow and unfortunately, for some children, they're still suffering the consequences of learning loss," he told BBC News."Covid has cast a long education shadow and unfortunately, for some children, they're still suffering the consequences of learning loss," he told BBC News.
He was supporting Labour's plans as "there's a very serious endeavour to get a hold and a grip on some of these issues".
And he emphasised the "clear evidence" in support of breakfast clubs improving attendance.
"We need serious action," Sir Kevan continued.
"All too often, the response to the pandemic has been piecemeal and, in my view, half-hearted.""All too often, the response to the pandemic has been piecemeal and, in my view, half-hearted."
'Maxed out''Maxed out'
Boris Johnson appointed Sir Kevan in February 2021, to advise the government on helping England's schools recover and create a long-term plan to help students catch up on learning after the pandemic.Boris Johnson appointed Sir Kevan in February 2021, to advise the government on helping England's schools recover and create a long-term plan to help students catch up on learning after the pandemic.
"I'm a Labour Party sympathiser but I was happy and honoured to go and support a Conservative prime minister," Sir Kevan said."I'm a Labour Party sympathiser but I was happy and honoured to go and support a Conservative prime minister," Sir Kevan said.
"We all had to stand up and do our part.""We all had to stand up and do our part."
But he resigned a few months later, after the government allocated £5bn in funding, rather than the £15bn he had advised.But he resigned a few months later, after the government allocated £5bn in funding, rather than the £15bn he had advised.
"The phrase that was used was that we were 'maxed out on recovery' - and I don't think we ever maxed out on recovery," Sir Kevan said."The phrase that was used was that we were 'maxed out on recovery' - and I don't think we ever maxed out on recovery," Sir Kevan said.
"We left schools too often on their own to resolve this."We left schools too often on their own to resolve this.
"For too many children in our most vulnerable communities, we failed them and let them down.""For too many children in our most vulnerable communities, we failed them and let them down."
'Best start''Best start'
On Monday, the government announced £15m worth of investment over three years to address school attendance issues.On Monday, the government announced £15m worth of investment over three years to address school attendance issues.
The DfE promised 18 new attendance hubs - bringing the total to 32 across England - providing tailored support to pupils at 2,000 schools, up from 1,000.The DfE promised 18 new attendance hubs - bringing the total to 32 across England - providing tailored support to pupils at 2,000 schools, up from 1,000.
The government also plans to provide more targeted and intensive support to more than 10,000 severely absent students and their families.The government also plans to provide more targeted and intensive support to more than 10,000 severely absent students and their families.
Conservative MP Robin Walker, chair of the education select committee, told the BBC's Today programme that the government should focus on the increasing number of students missing up to half their time in school - so-called severe absences. Conservative MP Robin Walker, chair of the education select committee, told the BBC's Radio 4 Today programme that the government should focus on the increasing number of students missing up to half their time in school - so-called severe absences.
Mr Walker said he supported a public information campaign to inform parents what the "right conditions" were for students to stay home because of illness, and when they should go in to school nonetheless.Mr Walker said he supported a public information campaign to inform parents what the "right conditions" were for students to stay home because of illness, and when they should go in to school nonetheless.
Education Secretary Gillian Keegan called attendance issues her top priority.Education Secretary Gillian Keegan called attendance issues her top priority.
"We want all our children to have the best start in life because we know that attending school is vital to a child's wellbeing, development, and attainment," she said. "We want all our children to have the best start in life because we know that attending school is vital to a child's wellbeing, development and attainment," she said.
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