Department for Education. Pupil attendance in schools. 2024. https// (accessed 16 February 2024)

NHS: Mental health of children and young people in England, 2023. Wave 4 follow up to the 2017 survey, NHS England, November 2023. https// (accessed 16 February 2024)

Parentkind. National Parent Survey. 2023. http//

Walker R, Brine S Re: School Attendance and Self-Care Public Health Information Campaign.: Public First;

Department for Education. Letter to school leaders on mild illness and school attendance. 2023. https// (accessed 16 February 2024)

Tackling absence is not a quick fix

02 February 2024
Volume 5 · Issue 1

Persistent school absence has serious and long-term consequences on children and young people. The latest data (Department for Education [DfE], 2024) shows a 20.5% persistent absence rate.

In January, a joint letter was sent by senior MPs Robin Walker and Steve Brine (2024), who chair the Education and Health and Social Care committees, to the Health and Education Secretaries suggesting that physical health-related persistent absence could be addressed by ‘a national public awareness campaign that offers parents advice on what to do if their child is showing symptoms of a mild illness’.

The idea that coughs and colds are one of the lead causes behind persistent absence has been peddled by the government for months. Last year, our healthcare leaders wrote a letter aimed at headteachers providing advice along similar lines (DfE, 2023).

While they acknowledge that there is a range of complex factors behind persistent absence, I feel we are missing the point. Tackling the persistent absence that is afflicting schools – and in particular secondary schools – will need much, much more than a ‘self-care public health information campaign’.

Register now to continue reading

Thank you for visiting Journal of Child Health and reading some of our peer-reviewed resources for children’s health professionals. To read more, please register today. You’ll enjoy the following great benefits:

What's included

  • Limited access to our clinical or professional articles

  • New content and clinical newsletter updates each month