Children’s Health Scotland Raises Concerns Over School Attendance in Scotland

Edinburgh, Scotland – Children’s Health Scotland is a leading organization dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of children and young people in Scotland. Through their direct work with children and young people with health conditions, the organization has identified a growing concern about school attendance in Scotland.

According to Rhianne Forrest, Health Rights Officer at Children’s Health Scotland, “The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Bill, which will come into force on 16 July 2024, states that children and young people have the right to education, no matter who they are. It is clear that a change is needed within our education system to uphold the rights of our youngest citizens and foster a society that values compassion, understanding, and social responsibility.”

Forrest points out that high rates of anxiety among children and young people make it harder for them to return to school after missing out on social interactions and events. The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated this issue, as children were told to stay home and avoid contact with others in order to protect themselves and others. Now, as schools reopen, many children and young people are struggling to adjust to a new reality that feels unstable and unfamiliar.

The Scottish Government’s summary statistics for schools in Scotland in 2023 showed that pupils living in the 20% most deprived areas had an attendance rate of 86.8%, compared to 93.5% in the 20% least deprived areas. This discrepancy highlights the need for action to address school non-attendance.

Forrest stresses the importance of using empathetic language when discussing school non-attendance. She notes that the recent campaign launched by the UK government to encourage children and young people to attend school, regardless of their feelings, lacks understanding and empathy. Children and young people are facing a multitude of challenges that go beyond a simple runny nose, and it is crucial to recognize and address these issues in order to support their well-being and academic success.

In an effort to address school non-attendance, Children’s Health Scotland recently piloted a Self-Management Skills Programme in partnership with NHS Forth Valley at Denny High School. This bespoke programme, co-designed by children and young people, aimed to improve the confidence, self-esteem, and social inclusion of school non-attenders. The results were promising, as 80% of the young people reported improved confidence, 70% reported higher self-esteem, and 100% felt more socially included.

The success of this pilot programme highlights the importance of actively listening to and involving young people in the development of effective programmes that address their needs. With the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child coming into force, it is more important than ever to defend the rights of children and young people. As Article 28 states, every child has the explicit right to education, and it is the responsibility of adults to support and respect them during times when their anxiety prevents them from attending school.

Children’s Health Scotland is committed to continuing their work in supporting the health and well-being of children and young people. They are currently seeking funding to run further Self-Management Skills Programmes and are available to discuss potential programmes with interested parties. To learn more about Children’s Health Scotland and their work, please visit their website or contact Michelle Wilson at or 0131 553 6553.

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