As many of you will likely be aware, school attendance has become a significant topic in the mainstream media and educational departments within government (i.e. Department for Education and Ofsted).
Recent guidance changes, mean there is a significantly greater expectation placed on schools to monitor, record and analyse absences. Therefore, in discussion with the Chair of Governors and the School Improvement Advisor, we have updated our school’s attendance policy to reflect these changes.
Please rest assured that, although there is an increase in expectations placed on schools to more rigorously monitor and follow up absences, we will always ensure that this is with the offer of support at its forefront as much as we possibly can.
Our updated attendance policy can be found on website; however, for convenience, it can also be found here: Attendance Policy – Jan ’24. We recommend that you read the policy fully, but a summary of it, and some possible questions, can be found below. If your questions are not covered below, or within the policy, please do not hesitate in getting in touch.
Why is the Department for Education now expecting this from schools?
The main reason for this change is that, following from the COVID pandemic, school attendance has significantly fallen across the country. Poor school attendance has a long-term impact on the future academic and wider success of children (DfE link1, DfE link2, DfE link3, DfE link4), and registered school attendance is a legal requirement (Education Act 1996).
What is absence?
Whilst children are expected to attend school at all times, some small amount of school absence will naturally occur. “Absence” is defined as a pupil not being present at their school (when it is open).
Absences/lateness can be categorised as authorised and unauthorised. Authorised absences/lateness would include significant illness (i.e. too ill to physically attend school), physically unable to get to school (i.e. lack of transport causing lateness) or pre-arranged absence. In the cases of significant illness or unable to get to school, it is vitally important that school is notified (by phone or email – firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as possible on the day of absence or lateness – and before 10am. All other absences (e.g. medical appointments or education offsite that can’t be arranged out of school hours) must be agreed with school before the day of absence/lateness by request via email (email@example.com). In cases of most medical appointments, or similar, pupils would be expected to be late, or leave early, from school for the time for said appointment (and not entirely absent). To ensure we are correctly monitoring this, we do unfortunately require a medical letter (either handed in at the office or emailed) for all/any medical appointments so that we can then ensure accurate filing.
When does registration take place?
Schools are legally obliged to accurately take registers twice a day (AM/PM). For us, morning registration takes place between 08:45 and 08:50. After that, pupils must be recorded as “late“. We take registers again between 13:00 and 13:05.
The DfE defines persistent absence as where pupil attendance falls below 90% for a given time. Schools are now expected to monitor pupils at risk of becoming persistently absent and communicate with parents/carers of pupils when they become persistently absent. As previously mentioned, we will always ensure that this is by the offer of support and help first and foremost. For pupils who become “persistently absent” (where attendance over the last 5 weeks AND the whole academic year is below 90%), we will email home to inform parents that this has become the case and offer support to help with the reasons for absence if possible. The school is then expected to more closely monitor the attendance of individuals in these situations. The same procedures above will take place for persistent lateness.
Situations where attendance drops below 50% (defined as “severely absent”) would have already involved the support from the Educational Welfare Officer.
We will be beginning this process as of the beginning of this term – and, therefore, the earliest contacts of offers of support will not be immediately. However, if any parents/guardians do require feel they may benefit from support before this time, then please do not hesitate to get in touch.
Requesting attendance information
All parents/legal guardians can request attendance information (e.g. attendance/lateness percentages) at any point during the academic year.
The changes in our approach to improving school attendance have come as result of changes expectations place on schools by the Department for Education – and additional linked government documents can be found within the policy.
A “summary of responsibilities for school attendace” (DfE documentation) can be found below: