March 27, 2023 9.47 am This story is over 15 months old

‘Ghost children’ absent for more than half their lessons in North Lincolnshire

Children eligible for free school meals had higher rates of absence

More than one in 50 northern Lincolnshire school pupils were absent from school more often than they attended it, according to the latest data.

Department for Education (DfE) figures showed North East Lincolnshire had the 52nd highest amount of ‘ghost children’, those absent for more than half their lessons, last summer term with 453, or 2.2 per cent.

The data, analysed by the Centre for Social Justice think tank, also showed two per cent of children in North Lincolnshire schools were severely absent, placing it with the 71st highest rate in England.

It comes as the think tank’s policy director Joe Shalam said Yorkshire and the Humber had the worst rates of school absences of any region in England.

“Children are missing school at a terrifying rate, we’re failing an entire generation that will be locked away from reaching their undoubted potential,” Mr Shalam said. “Far too often, schools and local authorities are unable to provide the support that children need to access education, this cannot be allowed to go on.”

DfE figures showed the overall absence rate during the Summer 2022 term was 8.5 per cent for North East Lincolnshire and 8.2 per cent for North Lincolnshire.

In North Lincolnshire, 3.2 per cent were unauthorised. This compared with 3.8 per cent across primary, secondary and special schools in North East Lincolnshire.

The rate of persistent absences, children missing from 10 per cent or more of school time [equivalent of an afternoon session each week], was 28.7 per cent in North East Lincolnshire and 27.5 per cent in North Lincolnshire. According to the latest data, persistent absences across England remain 100 per cent higher than before the pandemic. The Children’s Commissioner for England has, however, suggested about 38 per cent, or 621,000, persistent absent children were due to illnesses.

The CSJ’s Lost and Not Found report has put forward a series of recommendations to tackle the issue. This included a roll-out of 2,000 attendance mentors to work with families to understand underlying barriers to attendance. The recommendation was partly on the grounds of existing school staff being “burnt out and do not necessarily have the skill
sets needed to engage in whole-family support”.

The think tank also called on the government to fasttrack its promise of a designated mental health lead in all schools and for the Conservative Party to fulfil its manifesto commitment to £500 million on new youth clubs and services.

The Centre for Social Justice’s Lost and Not Found report showed Newcastle Upon Tyne had the highest rate of severe absences in Summer 2022 with 3.4 per cent, or 1,144 pupils.

Across England, children eligible for free school meals had higher rates of absence in the 2021/22 academic year compared with those who did not. The percentage of free school meal children missing for more than half of school time was 37.2 per cent compared with 17.5 per cent of pupils not eligible.

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) understands that North East Lincolnshire Council is working with heads of individual schools and the Department for Education on solutions locally to help reduce absence rates.