As one of their school improvement services for educational leaders, our sponsor SchoolPro TLC shares an attendance case study that highlights their work in this key area for schools.
When we start attendance work with our schools we always talk about the ‘journey’ that we are about to embark on. There a few quick wins when it comes to attendance improvements and it is the robustness of policy and the rigour in which the policy is carried out that makes the lasting impact.
The Starting Point
When I first met the Attendance Lead at this particular Infant School in Gloucestershire, it was great to see the drive they had in improving the attendance of the children.
Our starting position was comparable with the national picture, with whole school attendance sitting at slightly over 94% for the 2021 - 2022 academic year.
However, rates of persistent absenteeism and vulnerable group attendance, specifically Free School Meal (FSM) and Pupil Premium children (PP), had been below the national average over the previous years and both of these aspects were raised in the schools IDSR.
So where did we start…?
The initial attendance audit focused on key areas:
Following this, an Attendance Action Plan was produced that was to be monitored by the Attendance Lead and other members of the leadership team, along with the Governors.
Putting the Actions in Place
A new policy was launched in line with the Department for Education (DfE) guidance for September 2022, with staff undertaking training to understand their roles and responsibilities in achieving good attendance for all children. The children were spoken to in assemblies and SAM (School Attendance Mascot) was launched, where the best attending class each week got to look after SAM for the following week.
Parents and carers were sent an attendance letter signposting them to the new policy and class attendance was reported on each week in the school newsletter. Communicating with all stakeholders in this manner set the benchmark for the expectations of all.
The monitoring of attendance was moved from fortnightly to weekly with a key focus on persistent absenteeism and FSM/PP children. The leadership team added this to their weekly agenda and each child was ‘banded’ with specific interventions implemented at each stage. For example, if a child dropped below 95% attendance, a letter was sent home informing parents that their child was now below the national average for attendance and informing them how the school could support them in ensuring their child’s attendance improved. The word ‘support’ changed the thinking of parents as previously, parents looked upon attendance communication as a negative (much like behaviour…but that is a different discussion!).
With those systems in place, this led to ‘early intervention’, and positive, supportive attendance discussions took place far earlier and prevented that downward trend continuing.
Attendance was now a daily discussion with positive connotations. This enabled the ‘profile’ of attendance to be raised and developed a culture of good attendance, which in turn led to better outcomes for the children.
I visited the school termly to meet with the Attendance Lead, to view attendance data, discuss progress and improvements in-line the Action Plan.
Due to the comprehensive policy and the robustness that sat behind it, with all stakeholders playing their part, attendance in ALL areas showed an improvement.
So, What Next?
You often see the phrase “eat, sleep, repeat.” But when it comes to attendance, it’s “policy, procedure, repeat!” Yes, there will have to be some modifications for certain individuals; but, for the majority of the children under your stewardship, you need to get the basics right when it comes to attendance.
How Can SchoolPro TLC Help You?
Our Attendance Consultancy Team can help to build capacity in your setting by taking both a strategic and a hands-on approach to attendance. This can include supporting attendance reviews, analysing your data and advising on practices to help identify the best use of your resources and we can also support these plans where necessary.
Our main objective is to ensure young people achieve the best outcomes and we offer the assurance that detailed and accurate evidence and logs are maintained at all times, should they be required for the future.
By Richard Morley, Director at SchoolPro TLC