The past two years, from March 2020 onwards, have placed many pressures on schools and families as they have tackled school closures during lockdown and outbreaks of different COVID variants.
Our country is now in the position where we are learning to live with COVID and improving school attendance is a big part of this.
Before the pandemic the average primary school attendance was about 96%. In real terms this means that a child with 96% attendance would have only 4 days off school in a 20 week period. We are aiming to improve attendance back to at least this level.
Why School Attendance is so Important
In their document, Working Together to Improve School Attendance, the Department for Education outline the law on school attendance and right to a full-time education
“The law entitles every child of compulsory school age to an efficient, full-time education suitable to their age, aptitude, and any special educational need they may have. It is the legal responsibility of every parent to make sure their child receives that education either by attendance at a school or by education otherwise than at a school.
Where parents decide to have their child registered at school, they have an additional legal duty to ensure their child attends that school regularly. This means their child must attend every day that the school is open, except in a small number of allowable circumstances such as being too ill to attend or being given permission for an absence in advance from the school.”
In addition to this we know there is a direct link between good attendance and good achievement in school. Those children with the best school attendance tend to get the best exam grades; this starts in primary school and leads into secondary education, further education and the chances a child has in adulthood to find employment.
Sadly, it is also true in reverse. Those children with low attendance tend to do less well in both primary and secondary education. “Research has shown associations between regular absence from school and a number of extra-familial harms. This includes crime (90% of young offenders had been persistently absent) and serious violence (83% of knife possession offenders had been persistently absent in at least 1 of the 5 years of study).” It is a fact that many offenders in prison have low levels of literacy and numeracy.
What we want to achieve
We want every child who comes to our school to attend every day that they possibly can. We know that children get ill, we know that we get occasional outbreaks of illnesses like chicken pox and flu and we can account for these across each year or the whole primary school attendance for each child.
We want to see children who have week after week of 100% attendance, these children might have the occasional week with an illness absence but on the whole, they will come to school each day.
Signs we want to avoid
We want to avoid the pattern of attendance when children have a day or two off school every week or so. If a child is absent for just 1 day in a two-week period their attendance in that time is 90% and this is the threshold where children become persistent absentees. If that pattern continues across a term or longer the child will start to fall behind in their work. If we spot this happening we will phone, or write to you to let you know and to arrange a meeting so we can a way to improve it again.
We also want to avoid children missing school for appointments that could be scheduled outside of school hours or situations where a child goes for a dental check and has the whole day off. Where possible make your appointments outside of school hours or at the start or end of the school day so you child can come in a little bit late or miss the last 20 mins or so of the school day.
What can parents do
You can help us achieve great attendance by: –
- making sure your children come to school every day possible.
- Sending your child to school, even if they say they are feeling a bit ill; staff will closely monitor them and let you know if they get worse.
- Telephoning us and reporting any illness absence. It is ok for children to be absent If they have a genuine high temperature, have been sick, have diarrhoea or a transmissible illness. In these cases please let us know.
- Letting us know about any family emergencies or other circumstances that might cause your child/ren to miss school.
- Talking to us about any potential longer absences in term time. Only in exceptional circumstances can these be authorised and we cannot authorise them if we don’t know, nor can we authorise them after the event.
- Trying to arrange medical appointments outside of the school day where you can.
- Letting us know if you are worried about attendance or any concerns your child has about coming to school; we have good support for children who have anxieties.
- Working with us if attendance has dipped. By working together we can secure regular attendance.
- Avoiding booking holidays in term time, we cannot authorise leave of absence based on the fact that term time holidays are cheaper. It is always best to come and talk to us about your exceptional circumstances first before booking so that you are clear about what we can and cannot authorise and are not disappointed if a fixed penalty is issued for any holiday taken in term term. (“As head teachers should only grant leaves of absence in exceptional circumstances it is unlikely a leave of absence will be granted for the purposes of a family holiday. ” Working Together to Improve School Attendance P13).
You can find the school attendance policy and links to DfE documents below