Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Bridget Phillipson has launched a new long-term plan to tackle the “generational challenge” of persistent absence of children from school, after new data from the party exposed the scale of the problem across Tameside, Stockport, and Manchester.

Analysis by the Party shows over 200,000 children are set to miss half their time at school, including 937 in Stockport, 907 in Tameside, and 2435 in Manchester, by 2026 if rates of children skipping school continue.

Between 2016 and 2022, the number of children missing half their lessons trebled across England with an increase of 190% in Tameside, 130% in Stockport, and 170% in Manchester and is set to continue rising unless urgent action is taken.

A child is deemed persistently absent if they miss 10 per cent of lessons or more, and severely absent if they miss 50 per cent of lessons or more.

Over the course of a year missing ten per cent of lessons would equate to four weeks’ worth of schooling, while missing half is the equivalent of missing four months of school.

Labour’s plan includes the creation of a new Register of Home-Schooled Pupils to keep track of those not in mainstream schooling as part of a new package of measures to get to grips with persistent non-attendance and restore flagging public trust in England’s schools.

Other measures will include:

  • Empowering Ofsted to review absence as part of annual safeguarding spot-checks.
  • Using AI to spot trends in absence by joining up existing records for children to improve coordination between education, social care and the wider services that support families, while busting bureaucracy for parents.
  • Equipping every school with funding to deliver evidence-based early language interventions to ensure every child develops the strong foundation in speech and language development that sets them up to achieve.
  • Increasing mental health support through dedicated counsellors in every secondary school and putting mental health hubs in every community.
  • Reforming the curriculum to deliver a better foundation in reading, writing and maths, while ensuring that children do not miss out on music, sport, art and drama.
  • Providing universal free breakfast clubs for every primary school pupil in England to boost attendance across the country.

Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton & Reddish, said: “14 years of Tory rule has let down schools and pupils across Tameside, Stockport, and Manchester.

“There is no greater injustice in life than failing to give a child a proper education, which is why Labour’s plan is so crucial to turning things around.

“Working in partnership with the measures in Labour’s Child Health Action Plan, this intervention will make a meaningful difference, turning the tide on 14 years of failure, and getting our kids back where they belong, learning in school.”

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said: “Every day of education matters for our children’s life chances: that’s why tackling severe absence would be mission critical for Labour in government.

“The Conservatives have allowed the persistent absence crisis in school attendance to spiral out of control and have no plan to get children back to school.

“Labour’s long-term plan will tackle the reasons children are out of class, with mental health counselling, breakfast clubs and a register of home-schooled children, funded by ending tax breaks for private schools.

“After a decade of Conservative-driven decline, Labour will put education at the heart of national life to give our children a bright future once again.”

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