DfE Focuses on Improving School Attendance

The Education Secretary has asked his department to do a ‘deep dive into what is happening with PA and look at absences pre pandemic and they identified a decline in overall school attendance.
A young boy holding a tablet with both hands.
Share Post:

At the start of the academic year the DfE recorded more than 100,000 children were absent because of Covid in just one week. To put this in to perspective, pre covid attendance was recorded around 95% but this September it was down to 80% absenteeism.’

However, the Education Secretary has asked his department to do a ‘deep dive into what is happening with PA and look at absences pre pandemic and they identified a decline in overall school attendance.

Although recent trends in attendance levels have been largely driven by covid, which is outside the scope of the work of the alliance, the government is determined to address the wider underlying causes of children not being in school, because it is the best place for their development and wellbeing. Persistent absence increased to 16.3% in secondary schools in autumn 2020, compared with 15.0% in 2019, not including non-attendance in covid circumstances. (Press release 9th December 2021.)

What Can Schools Do to Improve Attendance?

Schools can start by looking at their Attendance Policy. Coming from an Attendance and Safeguarding background, I found it a good practise to review school’s Attendance Policy frequently to comply with recent updates from the DfE, schools can use the LA policy as a guidance and amend it to suit the school, as it will depend on individual schools’ practices and procedures.

It is important to involve and engage with class teachers and other pastoral staff for an effective implementation of your attendance policy and sharing this with parents and carers is vital, schools will need to ensure that the community fully understands the importance of attendance.

Become Data wise

In order to improve attendance and reduce PA, schools must have a clear and concise understanding of their attendance issues within the school; this can be identified through affective data analysis. The key is to use the absence data as a diagnostic tool to identify where early interventions are needed.

In this blog we will discuss the data that is available in SIMS for strategic planning. There are many reports available in your SIMS system for individual pupil/students and groups. Some reports show all the attendance marks for sessions, others show the total number of present and absence marks or percentage attendance.

SIMS Reports

The school report is often the most underutilised report in SIMS yet it provides an instant overview of your attendance data including persistent absence data, it is easily accessible in SIMS I Reports I School Report.

A screenshot of attendance data.

The DfE guidance on ‘Improving school attendance’ (Dated 7 December 2021) sets out the principles underlying an effective comprehensive attendance strategy for school’s system and data:

Robust school systems provide useful data at cohort, group and individual pupil level to give an accurate view of attendance, reasons for absence and patterns amongst groups such as:

  • children who have a social worker including looked-after children
  • young carers
  • children who are eligible for free school meals
  • children who speak English as a second language
  • children who have special educational needs and disabilities

Therefore, it is essential that schools record these key groups and update the data on regular basis for accurate analysis. Continuous monitoring of group analysis most specifically the vulnerable groups e.g. Pupil Premium, SEN and LAC can give schools scope for strategic planning. The group analysis by vulnerability reports allows for a comparative analysis of the key pastoral groups such as EAL compared to Non -EAL pupils, as shown below:

Pupil attendance data categorised by children with English as an Additional Language.

The pastoral staff will then be able to identify those pupils who give cause for concern. In addition to these reports, coded absence, broken down into a class and/or group format, would allow identification of excessive unauthorised absences. The Persistent Absence reports generates a summary breakdown of total number of pupils who meet the threshold, % of pupils who meet the threshold, of these students it also produces the number and % of Pupil premium, SEN and LAC students who meet the threshold and also broken down half termly as shown below.

A summary of pupil absence data.

The same report will also list all the pupils in the PA group.

There are number of other reports and analysis tools in SIMS that can be used to assist in monitoring absences, Discover can be used to derive the attendance and absence data, create dynamic groups, produce graphs and Venn diagrams for illustration, you can even configure your SIMS Homepage to add attendance key groups.

Unfortunately, a blog is simply not enough to explore all of the above, however, we hope it has given you a better understanding of the data that is available to manipulate and use to tackle persistent absences.

We understand that every school is different and one size does not fit all, therefore we offer bespoke Attendance Reporting, SIMS Attendance training and consultancy to tailor to your school’s needs.

For further information please contact our SIMS Team on 0161 276 0101 or email ictsupport@oneeducation.co.uk

Did you know.. One Education also has a dedicated Education Welfare and Safeguarding Team for advice and support on Statutory School Attendance and Safeguarding issues. Find out more here.

In other news

Login to your account

Search our website

Request a brochure

Please fill in your details below to receive our free brochure.

Sign up to our Newsletter

Please fill in your details below to sign up to our newsletter.

Request a call back

Please fill in your details below to receive a call back from a member of our team.