“My take on attendance and absence now is like I don’t really care anymore”
A new study by consultancy Public First has highlighted a ‘seismic shift’ in parental attitudes towards full-time school attendance since the Covid pandemic.
Factors for this change include the cost-of-living crisis and a surge in mental health issues among young people.
The research was gathered in June and July of this year, and the data was collected from eight focus groups of parents with school-aged children from eight different locations in England.
This study was promoted by the increase in children missing school in the UK, which recorded approximately 24,700 children as missing education on a single day in spring this year, according to local authorities.
Around 22.3% of pupils in the UK were recorded as ‘persistently absent’ over the 2022–23 academic year, which means they have missed at least 10% of their school lessons, according to Sky News.
That’s according to government figures, which show a significant increase from the pre-pandemic rate of 10.9% in 2018–19.
Before Covid, the Public First report stated that a child’s daily attendance at school was viewed as ‘a fundamental element of good parenting.’
“Post-COVID, parents no longer felt that to be the case, and instead view attending school as one of several – often competing – options or demands on their child on a daily basis, against a backdrop of a more holistic approach to daily life,” the report reads.
A large number of parents deem holidaying during the academic term ‘socially acceptable.’
In the report, a mother of two primary-school-aged children from Manchester confessed: “Pre-COVID, I was very much about getting the kids into school, you know, attendance was a big thing. Education was a major thing.
“After COVID, I’m not [going to] lie to you, my take on attendance and absence now is like I don’t really care anymore. Life’s too short.”
A mother of one from Bristol also felt a shift in her attitude towards this, saying that her family used to go skiing in February half-term, but now she questions why she didn’t just book for a cheaper week in January during school term.
The report’s recommendations call for fines for school absences to be ‘potentially abolished’ as it may suggest they are failing to change parent behaviour and ultimately ‘undermine’ the relationship between schools and parents.
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