The NNPCF has been asked to join the Department for Education’s Attendance Action Alliance which was set up by the Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi. Education Secretary launches new attendance alliance – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The group brings together senior figures from the world of education to boost attendance at school, particularly for vulnerable pupils.
At the meeting this week, chaired by Schools Minister Robin Walker, NNPCF co-chairs Mrunal Sisodia and Tina Emery were asked to lead a discussion on how to support the attendance of CYP with SEND.
Drawing upon the insightful feedback that we got from parent carer forums in our survey last year survey we conducted on school attendance (School attendance for children and young people with SEND – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C (nnpcf.org.uk)), Mrunal and Tina talked about the reasons for CYP with SEND missing school. These included:
- How anxiety and mental health issues was the most significant barrier for many CYP with SEND
- The impact that families not getting the right support had on attendance – not just from schools but also the gaps in social care and health services particularly over the pandemic
- How fear of covid was less of an issue for parents than many perceived
- And how the shortage of appropriate school places was stopping CYP with SEND attending school
In addition, we also spoke about the steps local and national government / NHS could take to better support families:
- More reasonable adjustments
- A more holistic focus from schools
- More support for anxiety including better awareness, use and funding of mental health support teams
- More awareness of the challenges of disability
- Better training for staff
- More and better coproduction
Other members of the group endorsed these messages as being aligned with their research and findings.
We also called for a more consistent approach and messages from the Department for Education – children should be supported into school and local authorities and schools must not be allowed to take a punitive approach to school attendance. We highlighted the Autism in Schools project (Autism Schools Project – National Network of Parent Carer Forums C.I.C (nnpcf.org.uk)) as an exemplar of the right approach combining coproduction, a cross system approach and being person centred.