Panel to target city’s absenteeism challenge

The panel set up to help reshape Liverpool’s long-term future has set its sights on tackling school attendance issues in the north of the city.

The Liverpool Strategic Futures Advisory Panel, chaired by Liverpool City Region Mayor Steve Rotheram, last week published the findings as part of its final report to support the city on its improvement journey.

Announced in August 2022, the panel was convened in the aftermath of a damning second report by government commissioners overseeing Liverpool Council following a devastating inspection in 2021.

As part of a wider realignment of public services, it is launching a pilot scheme to tackle problem absenteeism across Liverpool.

The final report identified three key areas over the decade to accelerate progress, including a regeneration partnership, a locally led urban development corporation (LLUDC) – the first of its kind in the UK – and an accelerated development zone between Everton’s new stadium at Bramley Moore in north Liverpool to the Knowledge Quarter in the city centre.

It has also recommended the creation of a Liverpool City Region Combined Authority-led Office for Public Service Innovation and the development of a partnership-led prototype in north Liverpool to test how the city can deliver better public services for its communities.

As part of this, investigations are to be launched on how best to tackle the thorny issue of getting children into school on a regular basis. From April, a targeted intervention is expected to take place in the North Docks and Stanley Park areas.

The report said, “The specific focus of this prototype project will be to investigate effective approaches to reduce persistent school absenteeism. This is a complex and multi-faceted challenge, which produces knock-on impacts for many services and agencies, as well as lifelong consequences for the young people affected.

“This work will draw on data from a range of local agencies to identify the causal risk factors associated with persistent school absenteeism and the interventions that are effective in reducing it. It will work with a range of local agencies, including schools and the voluntary and community sector to do this.”

It was revealed last year how in one single city school, more than 4,000 school days were missed during the academic year 2022-23. This was higher than any other primary or secondary school across the whole of Merseyside.

In a bid to get kids back into the classroom, the Department for Education (DfE) confirmed a city primary school is one of a series of new hubs to tackle persistent absence. The Beacon Church of England School in Everton is the first of two in the North West to help share practical ideas across the area to boost attendance.

Speaking to the LDRS in January, Gillian Keegan MP, Secretary of State for Education, said simply increasing fines for parents whose children flunk the classroom wasn’t the answer.

She said, “We know some parents’ attitudes have been changed by the pandemic and they don’t think it’s as important, missing a day here or there doesn’t matter, but every moment in school matters. 

“We get daily data from 88% of schools now so we know what’s happening on a daily basis and can see where we need to target the support. When we see it, that’s where we put the money, that’s where we put the investment and Liverpool and Knowsley – where I went to school – I’m keen the kids there get the support they need.

“We did consult on putting in place a national framework for the fines system and we will be looking at that but I think it’s more complicated than that. If it was as simple as that, we could have easily solved it, it’s much more complex than that.”

The north Liverpool scheme is expected to formally launch next month, reporting on outcomes and areas for potential future investment by early 2025. The results will be used to inform the panel’s longer-term recommendation on Liverpool’s public service reform – a best-in-class data and evidence platform to support local authority service improvement and decision making. 

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