Havering Council has started an initiative to “get to the root of” school absenteeism in the borough.

The drive aims to raise awareness among parents and pupils about the long-term impact missing school can have on a child's education.

Under new legislation introduced last year, local authorities now have the authority to collaborate with both local authority-run schools and academies to analyse attendance patterns and devise strategies to tackle the problem effectively.

Havering currently boasts school attendance rates of 94 per cent in primary schools and 92.3pc in secondary schools, compared to the national average of 93.7pc and 91pc respectively.

But the council is looking at ways to improve these numbers.

Councillor Oscar Ford, cabinet lead for children and young people, emphasised the repercussions that can come with absenteeism, including being fined.

He said: “In addition to not attending school, pupils are marked as absent if they arrive late for school.

“Being just five minutes late each day adds up to three lost school days; being 15 minutes late is the equivalent to 10 lost days.

“Schools will work with parents and carers to get to the root of any issue and to find ways to help them get their child back in school."

A council spokesperson said that a school attendance team conducts regular visits to every Havering school each term to examine attendance records and identify areas for improvement.

Various reasons were cited by pupils for their school absences during these visits, including responsibilities such as looking after pets and caring for family members.

Cheaper holidays during term-time, birthdays, oversleeping, visiting relatives, and purchasing new shoes or uniforms were other personal reasons given by pupils.

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Cllr Ford stressed the importance of good school attendance not only for academic progress but also for the social and mental wellbeing of the pupils.

He added: “Being late or missing school means they can miss out on playtime or socialising with their friends which then affects their friendships.

“Pupils also fall behind in their work and then feel anxious if they are asked a question they can’t answer.”

This, he said, can have a “knock-on effect” by making pupils not want to attend school altogether. 

Cllr Ford added: “Anyone who has concerns or needs more information should speak to their child’s class teacher.”

He also highlighted that there is a range of help and support available, and parents should discuss any concerns with the school.