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Christian MP weighs in on rising school absences

by Premier Journalist

Conservative MP Miriam Cates has told Premier that smartphones and social media are the biggest problem when it comes to plummeting attendance rates at schools.

The number of pupils absent from school is double what it was pre-pandemic.

Figures for the last academic year show more than one in five pupils were "persistently absent", that's missing 10 per cent or more of their lessons.

It equates to 17.2 per cent in primary schools and 28.3 per cent in secondary schools.

"There seems to be an enormous link between kids anxiety and their attendance and what's going on online. And you know, that I think is the crunch issue for our generation," Cates told Premier.  

"In previous generations, as awful as it is to be bullied at school, at least when you come home, at the end of the day, you have a break. That's no longer the case with online bullying, and it can become really out of hand, and girls just don't want to go back to school. With boys, they are more likely to be picked off by gangs."

Cates, a mother of three, said the closures of schools during the pandemic had exacerbated the problem, with children "losing confidence" having spent two years "behind closed doors on a screen". She added that churches can have a real impact on children struggling post-pandemic, saying that "clubs and youth groups can boost children's confidence and security".

Cates also argues that family breakdown is a huge unspoken factor behind huge rises in school absences.

"We do know that one of the biggest impacts on children's side is family breakdown. And we now are the family breakdown capital of the Western world here in the UK, and nearly half of our children now will have their parents relationship breakdown during their childhood. And if you think about the difference between a single parent having to get their children to school every day, having to manage the budget, having to bring in a wage having to find housing, and a stable family. It's just worlds apart. And I think although we haven't covered that in the report, I think that's a huge factor behind these figures."

The Office of National Statistics revealed that there were 2.9 million lone-parent families in 2022, accounting for 15 per cent of all families.


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