School attendance, COVID and letters to parents!
As things are slowly returning to ‘normal’ one of our duties as a school is to support your child’s good attendance at school.
The Department for Education (DfE) are clear, attendance at school should be prioritised. There has been too much disruption to schooling over the last two years.
DfE guidance tells us that we must:
‘regularly communicate expectations for attendance and punctuality and school performance through your regular channels of communication with staff, pupils and parents’
‘establish robust escalation procedures which are initiated before absence becomes a problem, for example by: sending letters to parents and carers’
For some families our focus on attendance might be new. As a school we haven’t had a focus on attendance since the start of the pandemic, nearly two years ago. This was because of the constant changes to requirements that have impacted on school life. Now that we are entering a more stable time, every child should attend school regularly, unless they are self-isolating.
This week, in line with our attendance procedures, I sent out letters to parents, reminding them about the importance of attendance at school. I got mixed reviews! Thank you to all of you who engaged in dialogue with me.
We know that events come along in life, children become unwell, medical appointments need to take place. The DfE suggests good attendance is 95%, this allows for these life events. In a school year of 190 days this is around 10 days absence. Attendance that falls below 95% becomes a concern, because it can easily slip to 90%, just another 9 days absence. This is the equivalent to 1 day in every 2 weeks.
For us, attendance of:
- 94%-95% is starting to cause a concern.
- 96-97% is good attendance,
- over 97% is excellent – this is our target for your child.
To complicate matters, add COVID into the mix and attendance at school begins to plummet. Following public health guidance is important to slow the spread of COVID, so although COVID illness counts towards each pupils overall absence, when we look at attendance we try not to include this. Many pupils who’s attendance has fallen below 95% did not get a letter for this reason. However, if your child has had additional days off – for appointments or other authorised circumstances, I have probably flagged this to you. This is an early intervention, to raise awareness.
Poor attendance at school has a negative impact on learning and friendships, our children have already had too much disruption over the last couple of years.
Some things that surprised parents this week are the types of absence that count towards overall attendance figures. Any absence, authorised or not are non-attendance at school and count towards your child’s overall attendance. There are very few things that don’t count towards this overall attendance figure. If your child is not on the school premises, they are absent from school, whatever the reason.
- Illness, even if you have followed our absence procedures, or we have asked you to collect your child
- medical appointments (including speech and occupational therapy)
- authorised leave for exceptional circumstances
- being late after the registers close
- your child not wanting to come due to anxiety
- open days at other schools
- religious observance
- exclusions or suspensions
- remote or hybrid learning at home (not waiting for a PCR test result)
- COVID isolation (but we take this into consideration before sending out letters)
- any unauthorised absence
The following do not count towards school attendance figures:
- isolating while waiting for a PCR result
- authorised school activity (e.g. trips during the school day with the class, sporting events, school entrance examinations)
We report your child's attendance information to you in two ways:
- MCAS, if you click ‘more’ in the attendance box, you will be able to see your child’s uptodate attendance, this percentage includes any self-isolation for COVID
- Annual reports, at the end of the year we report your child’s attendance to you, this will also include any absence for COVID
If you have any worries or concerns about attendance at school please contact Marsha Coppin-Payne, our attendance officer or arrange to speak to your child's class teacher.