A recent report from the Commission on School Reform has raised concerns about the rising absence rates among school pupils in Scotland since the Covid-19 pandemic began. The report reveals that around 40% of secondary school students of exam age are missing a day of school every two weeks, with a fifth of these students missing one day per week. This decline in attendance has been attributed to various factors, including anxiety about returning to school and the disruptions caused by the pandemic. The Commission warns that students who miss out on a full-time education are at a higher risk of achieving poor exam results and forming weak relationships.
The Commission on School Reform emphasizes that the already high absence rates observed before the pandemic have only worsened in recent times. The chair of the Commission, Keir Bloomer, highlights the severity of the situation, stating that approximately one in three young people is missing half a day of school every week, while one in eight is missing a full day each week. These absence rates significantly hinder the learning process and impede students from reaching their full potential.
In response to this concerning trend, a pilot program called Reach was launched last year. The program, a collaboration between Glasgow City Council and the charity Quarriers, involves psychologists and community workers visiting students’ homes to help them overcome anxiety, stress, and mental health issues. The aim is to build their confidence and capacity for re-engaging with learning opportunities. Colin Simpson, a representative from Quarriers, emphasizes the importance of supporting children in re-engaging with their education, acknowledging that the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges they face.
The Commission on School Reform calls for urgent action to address the issue of absenteeism in schools across the country. Keir Bloomer stresses that school education is crucial for individual and national success, and it is imperative to recognize the negative impact of absenteeism on these outcomes. The report highlights a particularly alarming trend where absence rates increase as children get older, with two in five students of exam age missing an average of one school day every two weeks. To prevent further damage, collective efforts are needed to tackle this issue and ensure that every child can reach their full potential.
The Scottish government acknowledges the impact of Covid-19 on attendance and the variations in absence rates at the local level and between different year groups. They have tasked Education Scotland with better understanding the current challenges influencing school attendance. The government will discuss these findings with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) later this month. They emphasize the importance of full student engagement in learning and are open to exploring all options to improve attendance rates, particularly for students with caring responsibilities and those who experienced educational transitions during the pandemic.