Tory minister says children with ‘cough and colds’ should still attend school, especially the ‘disadvantaged’

Children should be forced to attend school even if they have a mild cough or cold, according to the Schools Minister.

According to Nick Gibb, even a few days off over a long period of time might harm children’s life chances, particularly for disadvantaged kids.

Since the pandemic, schools have reported an increase in absenteeism, with nearly one in four (22.3%) pupils missing more than one in ten days in 2022/23. The overall absence rate across all schools was 10.7%.

But the Lib Dems told the Government to “cough up catch-up funding” rather than patronising parents. It comes after GCSE results published this week exposed a stark gap between the numbers of pupils in the North East attaining top grades compared to their peers in London.

Mr Gibb said: “Persistent absenteeism has a serious long-term impact on any child’s life prospects, but it has a disproportionately damaging one on those already struggling with disadvantage. Even one day off could have a detrimental effect on a child’s education.”

“We need parents themselves to take a stand on absenteeism. You can call it a social contract, if you like, between parents and schools.”

He said parents were sometimes worried about sending kids to school with a mild illness, adding: “It’s fine to send your child to school with a minor cough or common cold. But if they have a fever, keep them off school until the fever goes.”

“For parents who are not sure, there is plenty of online guidance available on the NHS website.”

Lib Dem Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson said: “This intervention from Ministers is beyond a joke. This Conservative Government needs to cough up catch-up funding, which is far more important than patronising parents who know what’s best for their child.

“Liberal Democrats are calling for that fair funding alongside support to help children who have had to endure so much damage to their education in recent years.”

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