Today’s news review looks at the report commissioned by the Government into tackling and preventing harassment on university campuses and the release of school absence statistics.
On Thursday 20 October, the department published statistics on pupil absence in schools in England, covering the Autumn 2015 and Spring 2016 terms. These show that overall absence rates have followed a generally downward trend since 2006, while the percentage of all possible sessions missed due to family holidays (authorised and unauthorised) has remained the same as this time last year. However, the number of pupils that missed at least one half day due to a family holiday (whether authorised or unauthorised) has increased very slightly.
The story has been picked up online by the Guardian, TES and Daily Mail. The coverage focuses on the very slight increase in the number of pupils that missed at least half a day due to a family holiday. However most of the coverage does conclude that the overall absence rate has remained stable.
The case of Jon Platt, an Isle of Wight man who successfully contested the term-time holiday fines issued to him, has been widely reported. However, it is important to note that the statistics in question predate his court case so cannot have been influenced by it. The department continues to support the Isle of Wight contesting the court ruling in favour of Mr Platt.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:
Evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs. Over the past decade absence rates have followed a downward trend and almost 200,000 fewer pupils are now persistently missing school than in 2010, thanks to the hard work of teachers, who are insisting on improved pupil behaviour and attendance. Today’s figures show we are continuing to improve with the number of persistently absent primary and secondary schoolchildren, which is down from 11.1 per cent last year to 10.3 per cent this year.
On Friday 21 October, Universities UK released a first of its kind review commissioned by the Government following increased reports of harassment and ‘lad culture’ at Universities. The review explores what more can be done by the higher education sector to prevent and respond effectively to incidents of violence and sexual harassment against women, hate crimes and harassment in all its forms.
The story was covered the Guardian, BBC Online, Daily Mail, Times, and the Times Higher Education. The Victoria Derbyshire show covered the story as part of a wider discussion into sexual harassment. Most of the coverage was positive towards the report, but there was criticism from some campaigners about whether it goes far enough.
We are clear that any form of harassment of abuse is unacceptable and must not be tolerated. That is why we asked Universities UK to undertake this important piece of work. The department expects every institution to put in place the right arrangements to ensure the welfare of their student body, and continuously work to improve them.
Universities Minister Jo Johnson said:
Any form of harassment or abuse is unacceptable and must not be tolerated. That is why we asked Universities UK to undertake this important piece of work to see what more could be done to tackle and prevent harassment on campus. We must now ensure that the work this taskforce has done goes onto make a real difference to students across the country. So I have asked UUK to survey progress in six months and make sure universities are doing all they can to protect the safety and security of their students.
Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Women and Equalities, said:
Sexual harassment or violence against women is wrong. No woman should have to tolerate this at any stage of her life, let alone at university when most students are living in new parts of the country, away from their support network of family and friends. This report shows the need to clamp down on this behaviour on our campuses, as well as making sure that universities give women the support they need if they are unfortunate enough to experience this during their university years.
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