A crackdown on children skipping school in the wake of the Covid pandemic will be announced by the Education Secretary on Thursday.
Writing for The Telegraph, Nadhim Zahawi signalled his tougher approach by declaring that going to class is “non-negotiable”.
Schools across England will be ordered to produce plans for tackling absenteeism now they are operating normally after the Covid lockdowns.
New central guidance on the best approach to fining parents whose children skip school will also be issued, with a move away from the current blanket approach.
Education sources said driving up school attendance has been one of Mr Zahawi’s major targets since he took over the brief in September.
The Education Secretary wrote: “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. Having a strict approach, where attendance is simply non-negotiable, will help schools to deal with absenteeism when it arises.”
Changes backing that up will be contained in the new Schools Bill, expected to be laid before Parliament on Thursday.
Successive ministers have been alarmed at the scale of absenteeism during the Covid pandemic and as cases eased off in the months that followed.
There has also been a marked drop in the number of fines issued to parents whose children fail to attend school. New nationwide standards will be issued on how councils, who have the power to issue such fines, use them. The average fine is around £60.
Councils will be told that the blanket approach adopted, which sees automatic fines triggered by absenteeism, should be replaced with a “case by case” approach.
A Department for Education source familiar with the drive said: “The reason for fining parents is not to punish them financially – it is to get kids into school.
“If that blanket approach is not leading to attendance increasing, it is right to look at other ways to get children back in the classroom as well as fines. We are taking a zero tolerance approach to absenteeism.”
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( Information from telegraph.co.uk was used in this report. To Read More, click here )