Catherine McKinnell, Shadow Schools Minister and MP for Newcastle North, today questioned the Secretary of State for Education on the issue of persistent school absence, following the release of devastating statistics outlining the scale of the problem. 

Catherine highlighted that the Government had voted against Labour’s motion last week to deal with the issue, saying: “So far, the Government have only announced sticking-plaster policies”.

Labour’s Opposition Day Debate was an opportunity for MPs to vote on Labour’s plan for dealing with the issue, and included legislating for a register of children not in school which the Government have promised but failed to deliver, putting specialist mental health professionals in all secondary schools and providing universal free breakfast clubs in primaries across England.

Questioning the Secretary of State for Education, Catherine asked whether the government will: “come forward with a long-term plan to properly address this crisis, or do schools and families have to wait for a Labour Government to finally give children the education they deserve?”.

Following the question, Catherine added:

“The North East has seen huge increases in children missing education, with a 282% increase in the number of children missing half their lessons across Newcastle between 2016 and 2022, 377% in County Durham, 355% in Gateshead and 287% in Sunderland – all substantially higher than the national average.

“School isn’t an optional activity, and every day of school matters to every child. This is yet a further example of the government’s failure on education and offer of only sticking-plaster solutions.

“Labour would bring education back to the centre of national life again, putting children first and ensuring that excellence is for everyone”.



Projecting from existing Department for Education data on the rate of severe absence, Labour analysis has found over 203,000 children could be missing half their time at school by 2026/27: 87-08dbdfb23d99

Catherine McKinnell MP’s full speech during the Opposition Day Debate on 23/1/24 can be read on Hansard –