Addressing the school absence emergency
The launch of London's Inclusion Charter was a powerful reminder of the need to ensure children are safe and supported in school.
The charter is part of the London Violence Reduction Unit’s work to drive up attendance and tackle rising school suspensions and absenteeism. It has been built on the voice and experience of young people and teachers.
Inspirational speakers and an impressive panel made for an uplifting launch event on Tuesday. It was wonderful to be in a room full of organisations and individuals who are striving to be the change they want to see.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan shared some stark data, revealing the equivalent of 1,430 children lost learning in London each day in 2021/22 due to suspension or persistent absenteeism – up 71 per cent on pre-pandemic levels in 2018/19.
The real-life impact of statistics like this was brought home by two brave young people who shared their own experiences of exclusion. It was heartbreaking to hear just how disempowering their school lives had been. They went unheard in education and no time was taken to understand the why behind their actions or behaviours. Both of these young people later found adults who listened to them and created support networks that allowed them to flourish and become inspirational role models themselves.
The need for action
Sadly, we know this is not how the story ends for many young people who are excluded from school, or find themselves unable to attend. Tens of thousands of children in England are now regularly missing school. The link between attendance and educational outcomes is well understood - but attainment is just one part of the story. Children who are not in education are also at increased risk of violence and exploitation and face potentially dire consequences for their futures.
Mental health challenges, the effects of trauma and adverse childhood experiences, and special educational needs are just some of the factors contributing to the attendance crisis, – all issues that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and its lasting impacts. Traditional teaching methods are simply no longer working for our pupils.
But as we heard on Tuesday, there is something that can be done. Headteacher Sonia Potter described how nurture has transformed school life for pupils, teachers and parents at Norbury Manor Primary School in London, creating a safe and welcoming environment and fostering a culture of learning and growth.
Her story is one we hear every day from schools and teachers across the UK. We know the difference nurture provision makes.
What is nurture?
Nurture is a way of relating to children that develops their social and emotional skills and ensures they’re ready and able to learn. There are six principles of nurture, based on creating safe environments for children, understanding that all behaviour is communication and ensuring that children are understood and related to in line with their developmental stage. Nurture is a relational approach and it helps children build strong connections with teachers and peers and positive attachments to school. It helps create a sense of belonging and strong school communities - a vital part of ensuring schools are places that children want to spend time in.
As Tracey Crouch MP said on a recent visit to a nurturing school in Kent: “This is about kindness. It's about community, it's about friendship.”
What we want to see
Understanding and properly supporting children’s wellbeing plays a crucial role in improving attendance. That’s why at nurtureuk we’re calling on policymakers to make nurture the norm, and tackle the attendance crisis by supporting children to be #HappyInSchool, ready to learn and achieve their potential.
Arti Sharma, CEO, nurtureuk