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Place2Be gives evidence to a new inquiry into school absences

On 15 June, Place2Be’s Head of Evaluation joined a roundtable on ‘persistent absence and support for disadvantaged pupils’, as part of the Education Select Committee’s current inquiry.

school pupil sat at classroom desk

The Education Select Committee is a group of MPs from different political parties. They investigate issues facing children and young people and make recommendations to the Department for Education.

In January, the Committee launched an inquiry into persistent absence and support for disadvantaged pupils. The Committee brought together:

  • young people with lived experience of school absence
  • experts from the education, charity and social care sectors.

During the inquiry, the Committee will look into the underlying causes of persistent absences and what measures can be implemented to better enable pupils to return to school.

The Committee is giving special consideration to the experiences of people from disadvantaged backgrounds, including those from an ethnic minority or with special educational needs or disabilities (SEND).

Based on a written submission in collaboration with Jenny Saxton and Tamsin Ford from the University of Cambridge, Place2Be was invited to give evidence for this inquiry at a roundtable event on 15 June. As a leading provider of school-based mental health support, we have seen first-hand the impact that poor mental health can have on children and young people’s experiences at school. This impact can lead to many withdrawing from school altogether.

Sarah Golden, Place2Be’s Head of Evaluation, joined the roundtable to share insights and recommendations from our work, which found that poor mental health is associated with persistent school absence. This association suggests that addressing mental health difficulties may help reduce absence rates. Our findings indicate that one-to-one school-based counselling and strengthening children’s engagement and enjoyment of school were associated with decreased odds of persistent absence.

Our recommendations

  • Improving mental health within schools must be prioritised to address persistent absence.
  • Mental health support should take a whole school approach focusing on building positive relationships between parents and carers, school staff and other professionals. Mental health professionals play a crucial role in working with families and offering time and space for them to build positive relationships at home and school.
  • We need an increased focus on creating positive school environments where interventions are individualised and focussed on wellbeing rather than punishment, where students have a voice and can access the support they need.
“We’re grateful to have the opportunity to present our finding that providing mental health support could play a key role in reducing persistent absences. It was encouraging to hear from many different voices working together to combat this issue. We hope this report will deliver positive change for children and young people as they navigate their school years.” Sarah Golden, Head of Evaluation at Place2Be

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Read more about Place2Be’s research

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