A response to rising absenteeism We welcome the spotlight on the issue of rising school absenteeism and encourage a collaborative response to understand the main drivers We work with children and young people who have an average of six risk factors when they enrol onto our programme A holistic approach when tackling the root causes of the challenges young people face, has an effective and positive impact on their school experience, leading to improved outcomes such as increased attendance This week has seen an extensive focus on the issue of rising school absenteeism from Labour and the Conservatives, with both announcing policy initiatives to tackle this. We welcome the spotlight that has been shone on this issue from the two parties and encourage both the Government and Opposition to work collaboratively with the third sector to better understand the drivers of absenteeism. Our work with children in West London has shown the importance of seeing attendance not as a standalone issue, but reflective of underlying challenges. Solutions need to be long-term and addressed holistically to be successful and sustainable. Pressures around confidence, wellbeing and social support can compound already challenging experiences of school or practical barriers to attendance, leading to higher levels of absences. At WLZ, we work to understand the individual needs of each child - in 2016, each child enrolled in our programme had an average of 4 risk factors. In 2023, this had increased to an average of 6 risk factors. Among our most recent cohort of children enrolling with WLZ, a third were persistently absent from school at the start of the programme. Our model addresses the root causes of their challenges, including absenteeism. We do this by providing each child with a tailored two-year support plan with a trusted Link Worker, support their access to community services, and provide them with specialist partner support. We have seen how this has improved peer relationships, confidence, and parental trust resulting in improved attendance outcomes. Shirley had low confidence, poor emotional wellbeing and increased anxiety around school contributing to poor attendance. Her Link Worker Tilly developed a support plan to help Shirley grow peer relationship skills, manage her anxiety, and strengthen her self-confidence. Shirley participated in partner sessions run by &Circus where she learnt new skills such as unicycling and even performed a solo in the showcase with real confidence, demonstrating just how far she had come. She also engaged in a group Lego Therapy programme, designed to encourage positive communication with peers. Shirley developed teamwork skills, formed new friendships and her teachers noticed her enjoying working with others instead of by herself. All this contributed to Shirley having a much more positive school experience. Joining up support alongside Shirley’s mum was also key, facilitated by the trusted relationship Tilly had built up with her and Shirley. Shirley’s mum reached out to Tilly, expressing her concerns about Shirley’s anxiety and stomach aches. Tilly was able to share these insights with the school and together a plan was formed to support Shirley in the classroom. Tilly also had one-to-one conversations with her, providing a safe space for her to share her concerns. This holistic and joined-up approach helped Shirley grow in confidence, learn relationship skills and remove barriers preventing her from having a positive school experience. At the start of the programme Shirley was absent from school at least one day a week, but tackling the underlying issues meant that in the last five weeks of the Spring Term, she wasn’t absent once. You can read more stories about the young people we work with under our 'Stories of success'.