Absenteeism, Persistent Absenteeism Letters
Several parents have approached me or staff to question the school’s position on absenteeism. In particular queries have been raised around recent letters issued to parents informing them that their child's attendance is a concern and is to be monitored.
It is the Department of Education that dictate attendance below 95% as poor and that below 90% as ‘persistent absenteeism’, likewise it the measure by which Ofsted evaluate aspects of their judgements during inspection. It is however my duty as Headteacher (or my staff under direction) to inform you of your Childs attendance status.
Schools are duty bound to inform parents if attendance falls below 95% and we do so termly in conjunction with the Educational Welfare Officer guidance. The letters are standardised and designed to inform you of the attendance record of your child and potential consequences if improvement is not seen; they are neither a judgement or a threat - they are factual and appropriate.
Absence letters issued earlier in the academic year can register as a concern, even with fewer absences, as the proportion of days available is reduced. The earlier you are informed, the more opportunities you have to act and consider future absences. It is statistically the case that attendance is less likely to be a concern later if parents are informed early.
Parents would rightly be concerned if they were later subject to Educational Welfare involvement as a result of attendance when the school had failed to inform them of the fact that they fell below the 'good' expectation set out by the Department for Education.
But my child has been ill and I have told you this?
Authorising absence for illness does not mean the absence has not occurred or been recorded. Schools must legally record all absences, regardless of reason and all absences count towards the attendance percentage. This is a national and legal requirement.
Absence is absence, and impacts on a child’s learning and wellbeing, regardless of the reason. This is clear in the actions taken under national policy. Whilst I have utter understanding when parents state that absence has been a result of specific unavoidable illness, this does not negate the fact that their child has been impacted by it, or that the policy applies to all. A child, who is absent due to intermittent illness, has missed the same amount of time as a child who has been absent as a result of a parent’s failure to bring them to school for unauthorised reasons.
To be clear, under policy and in reality, absence through illness has the same impact as absence for any other reason and as such is included in your child’s absence figures. This is a national requirement.
So, are you saying you want me to bring my child into school when they are ill?
No. But I do ask parents to consider carefully if absence is really necessary. We are not medical practitioners and cannot make decisions on behalf of health professionals, or indeed parents – the choice is yours.
They are only children; does it really matter?
The fact is that children who attend school for less than 95% of the time underperform significantly and have ominously reduced lifetime opportunities. It is not good enough to send your child to a good school or be graded a ‘Good School’ if absenteeism impacts on achievement. Schools with poor attendance and diminished outcomes do not remain ‘Good’.
My child always attends school, yet you say that there are ‘unauthorised absences’, how can this be?
If your child arrives late, beyond the close of register, the late mark is converted to an unauthorised absence. Again, this is a national requirement, not the school’s. This is done because too much time in school has been missed. Arrive late and children may be considered absent; arrive persistently late, and it is easy to fall below the expectation.
I have been asked to attend a meeting. What should I do?
Ashgate Primary School is here to help you when and where we can.
Children must attend school under the Education Act 1989 (revised). Poor attendance at school can result in one or more of the following:
Parents should understand that attendance is an issue for too many children at our school –
This impacts on outcomes for children individually and the school as a whole.
I will actively seek to enforce the necessary legal actions to address absence affairs where improvements are not seen and /or parents do not engage with or recognise the legitimate concern.
I wish to end by stating that it is my duty as Headteacher to address poor attendance and the duty of my Governing Body to hold me accountable for it. The vast majority of parents at Ashgate Primary School ensure their children attend in line with the expectation and I am grateful for this, as are my staff. I cannot however ignore that attendance in my school, for too many children, is below that expected. It is a stark and frightening fact that whilst we are driving up standards across the school, many are missing out on and suffering as a result. This has a negative impact on the children and the wider school.
We have always had a firm stance on attendance matters and will continue to do so and I know that the wider community supports this. Your actions are appreciated.