Dept for Education on the naughty step for ‘out of touch’ attendance campaign

The Department for Education is receiving backlash for its recent campaign focusing on improving attendance across UK schools, with many criticising it for failing to consider or address the real reasons for increased pupil absences.

The ‘Every Moment Matters’ messaging is aiming to tackle a national attendance crisis, which saw one in ten GCSE pupils absent from school last year (an increase of 70% on the year before, according to The Guardian). It looks to address children staying away from school for a range of issues, including minor illnesses, unmet SEN needs and complex mental health issues.

The creative, which was created in-house, has been shared widely across the Dept for Education’s social media accounts. It hows a selection of happy children at school, including phrases such as “This morning he was worried about school… but look at him now!”.

However, the education-focused campaign has been faced with a wave of vitriol across social media, coming from a wide variety of sources. Many individuals and support groups – some with more than 50,000 members – have openly criticised the campaign before going on to make their own, edited versions of the ads.


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Many of these responses highlight that mental health or undiagnosed SEN are often behind persistent absences, with parent support group Define Fine going with the alternative strapline: “This morning she was worried about school. Look at her now… still worried and still unable to attend.”

A response from Crohn’s and Colitis UK also took aim at a campaign asset which said “This morning he had a stomach ache… but look at him now”, highlighting that children could be suffering from more serious health-related symptoms.

Some also took a jibe at the recent educational advice around avoiding the spread of Covid, pointing out that the government had previously advised children with flu and CVovid symptoms to stay at home to avoid spreading the illnesses.

The campaign came at the same time as a YouGov poll which revealed that one in three parents believe the pandemic showed that children do not need to go to school every day. It also showed that just 70% of parents and carers are confident their child’s needs are being met.

The backlash also coincided with a completely separate campaign from Havas London, focusing on teacher recruitment. The Havas campaign will be running across OOH, VOD, TV and social media and is centred on teacher recruitment, building on the Department for Education’s ‘Every Lesson shapes a life’.

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