Working together to improve school attendance

Schools recently received a letter from the government outlining plans to improve attendance through various reforms. Read ahead to learn more about the key changes and updates.
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All schools will have received their letter from the minster for schools about the action the government plans to take on school attendance and what these reforms mean for schools.  There’s a lot of information in there and lots to think about before September, so where do we start? 

As there is new statutory guidance available, I would advise that your attendance team and senior leaders read this and take some time to digest the changes – paying particular attention to the alterations made to reflect changes to the law on keeping school attendance and admission registers, including a revised set of codes and granting leaves of absence.  They also need to be aware of the access to and sharing of attendance information introduced through the school’s attendance regulations. 

We know that the letter outlines that the government have worked closely with Schools Management Systems suppliers to ensure they are ready to implement the new codes which are laid out in Working Together to Improve Attendance, so we need to make sure our staff teams have a good understanding of the new codes, what they mean and when we use them. 

We would also recommend looking at your standard attendance letters and attendance information that goes out to parents to ensure they are aware of the new penalty notice framework.  Part of this, which I know we already do, is looking at support first.  There are many ways in which schools already support families and children who struggle with their attendance, including first day calling, home visits, parental meetings, parent contracts and Early Help assessments.  Do your parents understand this support offer?  Is it made clear to them how you can help and what that help would look like?  If you need support with this, please enquire about our members zone where we have a bank of resources available to support you. 

We know it is going to take a lot of hard work to get attendance back to pre-pandemic levels and ensure it keeps improving.  We know it can be an uphill struggle as some parents and children no longer support full-time school attendance in the same way they may have done pre-pandemic. There are many factors which influence this including parents working from home, the experience of children learning from home, families having more holidays in term time, and a rise in mental health issues with children and young people. 

Impetus have written a fascinating report, following on from their research ‘Listening to, and learning from, parents in the attendance crisis’. This report tells us there has been a ‘profound breakdown’ in parental attitudes to full-time school. We know we have a lot of work to do to combat this.  Not all parents and children feel that every school day matters, so we have to work hard to get the facts out there for parents and children that it does. We know that poor attendance affects academic outcomes for children and young people. We also know the devastating effect that poor or sporadic attendance can have on their social skills, friendships and other peer relationships. We would recommend this report is read by attendance leads in your school as it gives a real insight into some of the thoughts that parents have regarding school attendance.  Although there will be much in the report you will already be aware of, it’s a great starting point to try to understand where some of our families are coming from. 

To continue to combat the attendance crisis, we need all of our staff on board.  Considering your whole school attendance strategy is key and ensuring all staff are on board and playing their part is essential.  We’ve all heard the phrase ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ – it’s very similar with changing attendance attitudes, your attendance officer can’t do it alone, we need the whole staff team onboard. 

If you feel that anyone on your team would benefit from further attendance training, we have courses available which will help your staff to gain the knowledge and expertise to effectively embed guidance into every day practice.   

Our next Pupil Attendance Training takes place on Friday 19 April – secure your spot here.

Alternatively, you can join us for our later Pupil Attendance Training on Wednesday 15 May – book your place.

Finally, look out for those webinars that the DFE will be producing. 

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