An independent organisation's report into child absence from schools and lessons has found the North East is one of the worst performers in the country.

According to a report published by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), severe absence from schools has jumped by 50 per cent over a period of less than two years.

It also found the number of children across the UK missing half of their time in school has reached a record high.

Meanwhile, the report also found that the North East is the third worst performing region for the number of 'severely' absent children, meaning students are not in lessons more than 50 per cent of the time.

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Adding to this, more than one in twenty of all severely absent children across the country live in the North East.

Speaking on the figures, Flick Drummond MP, a member of the Commons Education Select Committee, said: “School absence has become a defining feature of our education system.

"The CSJ has revealed that there is one child in every class who is being denied access to a brilliant education. One child in every class who we cannot account for.

“Our most vulnerable children are those most likely to be missing. 140,000 children have slipped through the cracks. We must act urgently to get these children back into school. If we do not act now, we will have failed this generation.”

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The only regions performing worse than the North East in terms of severe absence are Inner and Outer London.

Meanwhile, almost 100,000 children are 'persistently' absent in the North East (absent more than 10 per cent of the time), while nearly 30 per cent of children from the region are missing classes on a regular basis.

Additionally, more than one in twenty of persistently absent children hail from the North East.

Both Middlesbrough and Sunderland topped the charts in terms of persistently absent schoolchildren, with Middlesbrough sitting at the top with 33.8 per cent.

Speaking on the report's findings, Middlesbrough MP, Andy McDonald said: “The report from the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) cannot be described as surprising, though it of course makes for sad reading.

"The reality is that almost half the children in Middlesbrough live in poverty and families are finding life increasingly difficult – undoubtedly this is bound to have an effect on school attendance, despite the best efforts of families and teachers across the Borough. 

“We all know that it is vital to a child’s well-being that they attend school and enjoy learning and growing.

"Families and carers must be given all the support necessary to improve school attendance – it will always be a source of huge disappointment to me that all the great work that Sure Start Centres did is now sadly lacking through cuts made by this Tory Government.” 

Schools North East (SNE) have said persistent absence is not a new issue for the region, and said this is a result of it experiencing the highest levels of long-term disadvantage in the country.

As a result, they said students have often faced higher absence rates than peers from less-disadvantaged areas.

They added the situation had been made even worse by the pandemic, which has weakened the the engagement of students and parents with education.

Chris Zarraga, Director of Schools North East, said: ‘The CSJ’s recommendations are welcome, reinforcing work schools already do, provided that additional support is sufficiently resourced.

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"Schools need adequate staff, finances, and expertise, to address the ongoing challenge of persistent absence.

"Schools are the best place for children and young people to be; for education, socialising, and for their mental wellbeing.

"The education system needs a long term plan to tackle absences, with serious joined-up thinking and collaboration between schools and other services that support young people and families."