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Zahawi launches new bill to tackle truancy

The Education Secretary is announcing a crackdown on children skipping school in the wake of the pandemic. English schools have been ordered to ‘make a plan’ to tackle ‘absenteeism’ as they are now fully open after Covid lockdowns.

Nadhim Zawahi told how he has a tougher approach, as he insists going to class is “non-negotiable” as part of a new Schools Bill. He said, “Having a strict approach, where attendance is simply non-negotiable, will help schools deal with absenteeism”.

Since taking over the brief in September, education sources have said that Mr Zahawi’s major priority is improving school attendance across England. As some estimate, there are as many as 100,000 pupils missing from school rolls.

Mr. Zahawi writes in The Daily Telegraph: “There’s no doubt in my mind that being in school is crucial to a child’s learning and development. So, we want schools to have an attendance policy that sets clear expectations for staff, pupils, and parents alike. If children are routinely absent from school, it is going to do incalculable harm to their life chances.”

The new central guidance on fining parents of truants will also be issued, moving away from ‘the blanket approach’. “If children are routinely absent from school, it is going to do incalculable harm to their life chances,” Mr. Zahawi wrote.

Plans were published in the Schools White Paper in March, for a new national register to stop pupils from going missing from school. The intention being to modernise how attendance is recorded with a “national data solution” to provide a safety net for those children at risk, and to track attendance.

Mr. Zahawi said: “My mission is clear; I want to make sure every single child across our country has access to an excellent education, supporting them to reach the full height of their potential”.