Some pupils have missed school on Fridays since the pandemic because their parents are at home, England’s children’s commissioner has said.
The number of pupils regularly missing school in England remains higher than pre-Covid levels.
Dame Rachel de Souza told MPs there was “a huge amount” of absence on Fridays – when “mum and dad are at home” – that “wasn’t there before”.
The government has not yet responded to Dame Rachel’s comments.
Pupils count as persistently absent if they miss 10% or more of school sessions, which would amount to seven days in the autumn term.
Dame Rachel told the Commons Education Select Committee on Tuesday that 818,000 of the 1.6 million children who were persistently absent across the autumn and spring terms in 2021/22 were off school for reasons other than illness.
And some pupils are missing school on Fridays more than on other days of the week, she said – a trend that did not exist before the pandemic – citing analysis of attendance data from autumn 2021, covering 32,000 children from three multi-academy trusts.
Dame Rachel said conversations with families suggested one reason for lower school attendance was that remote learning during lockdown had led to an attitude of “Well, why can’t we just have online learning?”
She added: “Parents are at home on Fridays. We’ve had evidence from kids: ‘Well, you know, mum and dad are at home – stay at home’.”
One survey published last year suggested only 13% of UK workers go into the office on a Friday. However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) says most people do not work from home.
A quarter (25.1%) of pupils were persistently absent last term, compared with 13.1% in the autumn term of 2019.
In response to those figures from February, the government said the absence rate was driven by illness, with high levels of flu and other viruses circulating.