Due to the recent extreme weather and more predicted on its way, are you prepared if it affects you?
There are mixed feelings amongst school staff about the benefits of the hard work involved in adopting a business as usual approach at times of extreme weather, just to result in huge numbers of missing children. It certainly doesn’t help the school’s bottom line in reducing absence figures but the clear expectation to uphold regular attendance is an important message to share with parents, and reinforces a school’s strong attendance ethos.
Safe and well
Schools should have a sense of achievement in opening their doors for every scheduled session, taking pride in offering this day of learning whilst knowing that those pupils who are present are safe and well.
Historically, at times of severe weather the 'Y' code has been used to show an ‘enforced closure’ for the whole school. ‘DfE School Attendance Guidance 2018’ gives the advice that schools can use the ‘Y’ code for individual pupils rather than across the whole school. The 'Y' code is now used to show a pupil is ‘unable to attend due to exceptional circumstances’. DfE guidance states:-
This code can be used where a pupil is unable to attend because:
- The school site, or part of it, is closed due to an unavoidable cause; or
- The transport provided by the school or a local authority is not available and where the pupil’s home is not within walking distance; or
- A local or national emergency has resulted in widespread disruption to travel which has prevented the pupil from attending school
In practical terms, this could mean that if a school (or any part of it) can be adequately staffed then provision can continue for those pupils who could reasonably and safely get to school. Information must be made available through the school’s website, phone line and local news to reinforce the required attendance expectations.
Health and Safety
Of course, schools need to be aware of the health and safety of pupils and staff and will need to assess the status of any pupils absences on a case by case basis, with risk assessments working in conjunction with school policy and procedure. It may be of use to establish contingency plans for reduced staffing and for governors, head teachers and senior leaders to review the likely impact of severe weather on staffing levels.
Do you want to build a snowman?
The key message for schools to share with their communities ahead of expected inclement weather, is that if you want to build a snowman, there will be plenty of time to play after the school day. Securing a child’s ongoing regular and punctual attendance is a key element underpinning future attainment and it is the shared responsibility of home and school to resist the temptation to let standards slip.