School Attendance Event at the Viking Community Centre

Suchismita Majumdar, Research & Policy Officer, ESDEG

On 31st January 2024 an informal discussion and workshop on School Attendance was held at the Viking Community Centre in Northolt hosted by ESDEG. Ealing Council’s Ms. Anna Elliott, Supporting Families Coordinator led the discussion and presented on the importance of school attendance and shared tips with parents for improving attendance.

11 mothers from ethnic minority migrant communities whose children attend the local schools were present at the workshop. Several of the mothers have multiple children most of them attend the secondary schools, while some of the younger ones attend the primary schools in the borough of Ealing. 3 of the mothers present did not have English language skills, so one mother volunteered to translate for them. There were two mothers present whose children have special needs.

This workshop was organised to create awareness about the new guidelines issued by the Department for Education (DfE) about working together to improve school attendance. You can read about it here – Working together to improve school attendance – GOV.UK ( Under this guidance the government has adopted an approach that school attendance is ‘everybody’s business’ and that schools, LA, statutory safeguarding partners, governing bodies and parents must work together to support children, young people and families to access education.

The workshop was flagged off with a discussion on the reasons why children want to miss school. The mothers shared their experiences of why their children have not wanted to go to school in the past

  • Feeling sick
  • Tiredness
  • Anxiety/depression
  • Being bullied
  • Lack of support for special needs
  • Difficulty in adjusting to secondary school
  • Peer pressure – children’s friend not attending school, so they also do not want to go
  • Children may not like a teacher/supply teacher/subject/particular lesson
  • Misplaced lanyard/PE kit
  • Running late

Mothers also shared their frustrations about how schools refuse to authorise absences and how expensive it gets to travel during the school holidays. Being a mother herself Anna empathised with the others but explained that the schools cannot authorise school absence for holidays however good a child’s track record of attendance is. This is based on law and applicable to all and cannot be decided on individual cases. She also shared the information that according to school data Ealing was the top borough in London where parents go on unauthorised holidays.

Anna asked mothers how many days were the children required by law to attend school?

Each mother came up with a different answer, When Anna told them the correct figure, the mothers felt that 190 days out of 365 was a reasonable ask.

Next Anna went on to talk about the importance of regular school attendance and also being on time at school i.e., punctuality.

A piece of data shared by Anna made the mums sit up

To reinforce her point she shared the school attendance data in Ealing and explained to the mothers what is means for students

There is a demonstratable link between absence and attainment at the end of KS2 and KS4. Pupils with higher attainment at KS2 and KS4 had lower levels of absence over the key stage compared with those with lower attainment.
Pupils who did not achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in 2019 had an overall absence rate of 4.7%, compared with 3.5% among pupils who achieved the expected standard and 2.7% among those who achieved the higher standard.  
Pupils who did not achieve grade 9 to 4 in English and Maths GCSEs in 2019 had an overall absence rate of 8.8% over the key stage, compared with 5.2% among pupils who achieved a grade 4 and 3.7% among pupils who achieved grade 9 to 5 in both English and maths.
Research shows associations between regular absence from school and extra-familial harms. This includes crime (90% of young offenders had been persistently absent) and serious violence (83% of knife possession offenders had been persistently absent in at least 1 of the 5 years of study).  

Anna asked the mothers how school attendance could be improved and shared some easy tips and suggestions with them. She stressed on the need for maintenance of open communication with schools at all times. She also shared a list of resources available to the residents of Ealing to help with their children’s education. It was a lively meeting with the mothers pouring their hearts out and sharing experiences of the times they had to drag their children to school and how difficult it gets sometimes. But they were all of the view that ideally they prefer their children to be in school because that frees them up to do other things.

The mothers were very enthused by the meeting and as one mother Amina* put it

“Thanks to all the information shared (in the meeting) I will now look at school attendance in a new way.”

We have already received requests for further such meetings and also if Anna could do a similar awareness meeting specifically tailored to children with special needs (SEND), and what the implications would be for parents who want to home-school their children.

If you want further information or interested in hosting such a workshop with your community please get in touch with Anna at

*Name changed for confidentiality reasons.