Wirral MP says government should take note of link between school absences and poverty

Margaret Greenwood is calling on the government to take action on child poverty by bringing forward measures including cutting the cost of school uniforms and providing free breakfast clubs in every primary school in England. 

Labour has pledged to do so, should it win the next election. 

The Wirral West MP made her intervention during a debate in the House of Commons on the subject of ‘children not in school’. 

Recent analysis by Labour found that, between 2016 and 2022, the number of children missing half their lessons trebled across England. The research also estimates that more than 1,300 pupils in Wirral will miss half of their lessons by 2026. 

Leading teachers’ union, the National Education Union (NEU) has warned that the impact of poverty on persistent school absence cannot be underestimated.  

Speaking after the debate, Margaret Greenwood MP said, “It is alarming that the number of pupils in Wirral, and across England, missing half of their lessons has been steadily rising and is predicted to continue to rise over the coming years. 

“As a former school teacher, I know just how important school is for children and young people. 

“Yet the government is failing to get to grips with persistent school absence. They are failing too on child poverty. 

“The House of Commons Education Select Committee has found that reasons behind persistent absences are complex and can include physical and mental health issues, as well as coming from a disadvantaged background.   

“There is also a wealth of evidence that the assessment system and pupils being over-tested at school can put them under great pressure. 

“The NEU has pointed out that we cannot under-estimate the impact of poverty on school absence. 

“That is just one of the reasons why the government should listen to Labour and cut the cost of school uniforms and provide free breakfast clubs in every primary school in England. 

“Ministers should also adopt Labour’s plan to give every young person access to early mental health support. 

“I know from the schools that I visit in Wirral West just how dedicated teachers are. They are ambitious for the children and young people they teach.  

“We need that dedication to be matched by government with action on poverty, mental health support in schools and a review of the curriculum and the exam system.  

“School should be a positive experience for every child. It’s time the government put the wellbeing of children and young people at the heart of education.” 

Image credit: Oleksandr P

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