This article was originally published in the Sunderland Echo. To read the original article click here.

Last week I unveiled Labour’s long-term plan to tackle persistent school absence and drive high and rising standards in education.

Levels of persistent school absence have doubled in the last five years.

Staggeringly, more than one in four parents think school isn’t essential every day, while one in four children are on track to miss school regularly by 2025.

We face a lost generation missing from Britain’s schools. Is there any better evidence of national decline under the Conservatives?

Being in school, learning and making friends, is the best place for every child.

If children aren’t in school, we won’t get the high and rising standards all our children deserve.

Absence harms every child, not just the children missing school.

That’s why absence is one of the biggest challenges we must tackle to break down barriers to opportunity for every child.

Only Labour has a long-term plan to tackle this.

The Education Secretary has belatedly claimed that reducing absence is her ‘number one priority’.

Again, following where Labour leads.

Just as we saw with crumbling schools, only acting once the problem spirals out of control.

The Conservatives have had fourteen years and absence – which was already rising before Covid – has only worsened on their watch.

Throughout fourteen years of Tory-driven decline, they have shown they do not care about improving the life chances of other peoples’ children.

But the next Labour government will put education back at the forefront of national life, as part of our mission to break down barriers to opportunity.

Labour will tackle the causes of school absence. We’ll roll out free breakfast clubs in every primary school, driving up attendance and attainment.

We’ll secure mental health support inside and outside the school gates, with counsellors in secondary schools and hubs in the community.

We’ll reform school inspections, introducing annual checks on attendance.

We’ll join-up data to spot issues early and support families, nipping problems in the bud.

We’ll deliver a reformed curriculum and assessment system to engage every child.

We’ll reset the broken relationship between government, schools and families. Under Labour, we’ll be partners in the push for better.

The difference Labour will bring is clear.

A party putting children first.

A government prioritising education.

A country where excellence is for everyone.

Our vision for education is simple but powerful, that background must be no barrier to opportunity.

Keir Starmer has fired the starting gun on the General Election campaign and opportunity, education and families will be at the heart of Labour’s message.

A message of change, renewal and hope for a government that will get Britain’s future back.

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