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    Some schools in England are sending police to the homes of children who are persistently absent, or warning them their parents may go to prison if their attendance doesn’t improve, the Observer has learned.

    Headteachers say they are now under intense pressure from the government to turn around the crisis in attendance, with a record 150,000 children at state schools classed as severely absent in 2022-23.

    The group’s membership has more than doubled to 58,000 since the government published strict new guidelines on enforcing attendance for schools, including higher fines and prosecution for parents.

    She said: “The children I see tell me that they are so worried about school they aren’t sleeping, or they’ve stopped eating, or they are having nightmares.” She added that if an adult were to report similar feelings about their job, she would advise them to seek support or consider moving rather than insisting they must not miss a single day.

    Last week, Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, criticised parents who she claimed were allowing their children to take Friday off school because they were working at home.

    “That is why we are taking a support-first approach to tackling absence, setting clear expectations that schools and local authorities work closely with families to identify and address the underlying issues.”

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