The number of children who are now "severely absent" from school in England is "of great concern", according to the Commons Education Committee.

It warned that this had worsened during the pandemic and that there had been "no significant improvement" in the time since.

This comes after Action For Children said that pupils missing school due to anxiety had become the number one issue for parents and carers.

The charity said that an article of theirs providing advice for parents had been visited more than 57,000 times in the year to March.

A fifth of English children 'persistently absent' from school

The Commons Education Committee found that a fifth (22.5%) of pupils were now persistently absent from school, around double the pre-pandemic rate.

Around 1.7% of children were found to be severely absent from school compared to the 1% before the pandemic.

Overall absentee rates in England had risen to 7.6%, up from around 4 to 5% before the Covid-19 outbreak.

A pupil is classified as a persistent absentee if they miss 10% or more of their schooling and as a severely persistent absentee if they miss 50% or more.

'High levels of absence' from English schools causing 'huge problems'

Action For Children said that the refusal usually occurs when a child is too anxious to go to school in what is sometimes referred to as school anxiety or school phobia.

Joe Lane, head of policy and research at Action For Children, said: “High levels of absence from school in England is a huge problem for the children missing school and their families.

“As well as providing an education, schools can support children to develop emotionally and socially, promote their wellbeing and help keep them safe. Ultimately, that helps them to grow up to be thriving adults, better able to contribute to society and the economy.”

The charity has called on the Government to "follow through" on plans to roll out family hubs, adding that it should also "boost the number of attendance mentors by making them a core part of new family help services”.

Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza welcomed the charity’s recommendations.

She said: “Children who require additional support and receive it in school are happier than the overall cohort, which is why we need to ensure families get the right early help, and that schools have the tools they need to respond quickly to factors like poor mental health or special educational needs. Every child deserves to access their right to education.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Unfortunately, a decade of cuts has seen the teams that used to support schools with attendance decimated, and large parts of the country do not benefit from either the Government’s attendance hubs, or its pilot mentoring programme for those pupils absent most often.

“This is not an issue schools can tackle alone, and clearly parents are in need of support too. The Government really does need to redouble its efforts and commit the necessary resources to tackle this issue.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “The vast majority of children are in school and learning with recent data showing there were 380,000 fewer children persistently not in school last year.

"We are taking action to increase attendance because it is vital for a child’s education, wellbeing and future life chances.

“We have expanded our attendance hubs, which will support over 400,000 pupils across 14 hubs and provided a toolkit for schools on communicating with parents on this issue.

“Our mentoring programme, delivered by Barnardo’s, sees trained mentors work directly with 1,665 persistently and severely absent children and their families to understand and overcome the barriers to attendance and support them back into school.”