The summer term is approaching, and with it comes GCSEs, leavers’ proms, hay fever and the age old question of study leave. If you haven’t done so already, now is the time to ensure you can offer students what they need at this time.
Most high schools struggle with the many pros and cons of authorising pupils to be away from the school site at one of their most academically critical times. On the one hand, year 11 pupils could be about to embark on a prolonged period of independent study techniques that most FE establishments favour, and study leave can offer valuable practice. On the other hand however, statistics show that year 11s who are given prolonged periods of study leave do not perform as well as those who are kept under the more formal tutorage of a school environment.
For study leave to be successful, pupils need to be incredibly self-motivated or have a strong familial support network in place to encourage effective study. Many school leaders report that even very well-motivated pupils tend to fall prey to distraction, with study leave in the traditional sense only really benefiting gifted and talented pupils. Most young people will need to be motivated and encouraged. Schools and academies need to think creatively about how they can best support their students at this time.
ARE PUPILS ENTITLED TO STUDY LEAVE?
What does the DfE say?
“No.” The DfE says study leave should not be granted by default once tuition of the exam syllabus is complete, and study leave should only ever be granted to pupils in year 11. If schools do decide to grant study leave, provision should still be made available for those pupils who want to continue to come into school to revise. All pupils are different and have different requirements and preferences when preparing for examinations. Some schools do seek alternatives to study leave as they recognise that some pupils do not have the skills, or are not inclined, to make the best use of unsupervised and unstructured revision time. However, many schools also recognise that study leave is a chance for pupils to develop their independent study which will help them when they move to post-16 provision, where a self-study approach is commonly used.
HOW SHOULD SCHOOLS RECORD THE ATTENDANCE OF PUPILS ON STUDY LEAVE?
Year 11 pupils granted study leave should be marked on the attendance register as authorised absence using code S. No other attendance code is suitable for the purpose of study leave. Year 11 pupils who are 16 years old are of compulsory school age up to the last Friday in June and must be marked on the attendance register accordingly.
Code S: Study leave
Schools must record study leave as authorised absence. Study leave should be used sparingly and only granted to year 11 pupils during public examinations. Provision should still be made available for those pupils who want to continue to come into school to revise.
Since 2012/2013 academic year, absence data has been collected for all 6 half terms. However, to account for high levels of study leave and other authorised absences for pupils aged 15 in the second half of the summer term, all possible sessions and absences relating to this period for 15 year olds (as at the start of the academic year) are removed prior to any analysis being undertaken and are not included in any published statistics.
WHAT CAN YOU OFFER TO YEAR 11 STUDENTS?
- Ensure that space and resources are available for students to come into school and study if they want to, including access to staff to help with study and stress
- Encourage an expectation that all pupils will attend school, rather than the alternative
- Make the days as enjoyable as possible, toast in the morning, no uniform, a chill out space, access to the gym for a friendly game at lunchtime
- Try to work with other schools/academies in the area, possibly with other facilities and specialisms to accommodate activities following exams in June such as: sports; advice; drugs talks; home economics; careers; life after school with previous students. Fun, varied and practical alternatives are more likely to encourage attendance
- Ask your current students now what they would find useful, even if it’s to plan for next year.
It’s not too late for your current year 11 students and future ones to ensure they can benefit the most from possibly the last weeks at your school. If you have some good practice, let us know by leaving a comment below.