Labour’s plan to ‘use AI to spot school absence trends’ seem fairly modest when compared with their other ambitions for AI: to ‘help people find jobs’… to ‘speed up benefit claims’…, to ‘cut NHS waiting lists’… and to ‘grow the economy by 0.5%’….

However, like these other problems, school absence has well understood causes that need political and not technical solutions. Covid, the cost of living crisis, social disconnection and a collapse in hope for the future - no nvidia chips need to burn through the night to diagnose that these are affecting school attendance. Persistent absence aligns depressingly well with other social determinants such as deprivation, ethnicity and special educational need. But do we really need pupils in these groups to be subjected to further data surveillance to know that these are issues crying out for investment? If the main party of opposition put care and social justice at the heart of the national conversation, rather than data analytics, they might find more enthusiasm for the alternative they are supposed to be offering.…