Written evidence submitted by Parentkind

As a national federated charity, Parentkind’s membership of almost 13,000 Parent Teacher Associations raise more than £120 million annually, to provide vital equipment, resources, and services to our nation’s schools. At more than 1% of all UK charitable giving, this contribution to our state school system is greater than any other educational charity bar the largest of multi-academy trusts.


By working with parents from more schools than any other charity, Parentkind amplifies the voice of those in a parenting role by investing substantial resources in representing their views on their child’s learning to local, regional, and national governments and agencies.  We do this because evidence tells us that parental participation in education benefits all children in all schools and society as a whole.


Parentkind is sending this letter in response to the Education Select Committee’s inquiry into persistent absence and support for disadvantaged pupils. When we refer to ‘parents’ in this letter, we mean it as a shorthand to encompass anyone with a parenting role, inclusive of foster parents, guardians and carers. Parentkind will always welcome policymakers’ consultations being mindful to include this group and hear its views. In order to respond effectively to any consultation, Parentkind polls parents for their views. However, on this occasion Parentkind has used various polls conducted in the past to inform its response. 


Parents views on pupil absence


Research from Parentkind has tended to show that parents have voiced concerns that could help explain why pupil absence occurs, for example:


Parentkind’s surveys consistently show that parents want more of a say in their child’s education as what happens in school can also impact family life. Parents are extremely important stakeholders in education, and it is particularly important that parent voice is heard at all levels.


The fact that absenteeism is more prevalent among particular groups, like children who live with SEND, shows the importance of parent voice being present at all levels. Children and young people living with SEND face unique challenges that can prevent them attending school. Parentkind research in 2022 showed that parents whose children have experienced barriers to attending school felt unsupported. Around 50% of parents in general felt that the school was supportive of their situation, but this figure dropped to 28% amongst the parents of children living with SEND. Clearly, absence policies, their consultation and how involved parents feel about them can be potential sticking points. However, these sticking points tend to negatively impact SEND parents and children more. It is important that parents of this group are listened to at all levels because parents of children with SEND may require different support and a more flexible approach to enable their child to attend school regularly. It also suggests that current attendance policies may have an outsized negative impact on parents and children with SEND.


While Parentkind welcomes the attentions of the Department for Education on this issue, and notes their proposed reforms, there are concerns that a single standardized approach, as suggested when it comes to Fixed Penalty Notice thresholds, could cause problems for vulnerable groups. While a simple system, where thresholds are clear and can be published, is welcome, our data should be cause for concern that a single system may not allow the requisite flexibility requited in some settings. What’s more, this is a continuation of a punitive system of fines that parents, when polled in 2022, did not support.


I hope that the committee will consider Parentkind’s comments, and I look forward to reading its report in due course. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss further any of the points made within Parentkind’s response.

February 2023