Record High – Over 150,000 Pupils Severely Absent from School Amid Pandemic Fallout

Record High – Over 150,000 Pupils Severely Absent from School Amid Pandemic Fallout

The prevalence of severe absenteeism among school pupils has reached a concerning milestone, with more than 150,000 students now classified as severely absent.

This alarming trend, characterized by missing at least half of all school days, has tripled over the past six years, indicating a troubling pattern of entrenched absenteeism.

Impact of the Pandemic:

Head teachers attribute this surge in absenteeism to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which fractured the traditional ‘social contract’ between parents and schools regarding attendance.

Lockdowns during 2020 led to families falling out of the daily school routine, contributing to a decline in attendance habits.

Challenges for School Leaders:

Educational leaders, represented by Paul Whiteman of the NAHT union, acknowledge the efforts undertaken to address this issue but emphasize the persistent challenges.

Absence rates remain significantly elevated compared to pre-pandemic levels, reflecting a range of underlying factors such as illness, mental health issues, poverty, and household challenges.

Escalating Absenteeism Statistics:

Government data released highlights the severity of the situation, with 150,256 children classified as severely absent during the 2022-23 academic year.

This marks a stark increase from previous years, with only 48,460 pupils identified as severely absent in 2016-17.

Similarly, the proportion of persistently absent pupils, missing 10% or more school sessions, has nearly doubled since 2016-17.

Concerns and Consequences:

Beth Prescott of the Centre for Social Justice underscores the gravity of the situation, warning of enduring consequences for both affected students and society at large.

Failing to address this trend could have long-term repercussions, impacting not only individual educational outcomes but also broader societal and economic dynamics.

Government Response and Enforcement Measures:

In response to the escalating absenteeism, the government plans to increase fines for unauthorised absences, aiming to restore attendance levels to pre-pandemic norms.

These fines, starting at £60 and rising to £120 if unpaid within 21 days, will increase further from autumn, reflecting a concerted effort to address the issue.


The surge in severe absenteeism among school pupils highlights the profound impact of the pandemic on educational routines and societal norms.

Addressing this trend requires a multifaceted approach, encompassing support for families, targeted interventions in schools, and robust enforcement measures to uphold attendance expectations.


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