By Urs Cunningham | Posted: Wednesday September 19, 2018
There is a substantial body of research showing clear links between long term achievement, health, wealth, success and happiness and attendance at school.
Children who attend school consistently are likely to stay at school longer and live more successful lives. Of particular interest is the link between attendance in the first two years at school and longevity at school. What this suggests is that a pattern of attendance develops very early in school life and does not easily change. Children whose attendance is lower are more likely to leave school before achieving the necessary qualifications for success.
The Board of Trustees is expected to take all reasonable steps to ensure that students do attend school whenever it is open. The Education Act 1989 requires all children enrolled at a school to attend school whenever that school is open unless they have a justified reason not to attend; just giving a reason does not necessarily justify an absence.
However, of greater concern than the legal requirements is the long term impact on their life-chances as a result of students developing problematic attendance patterns. A pattern that concerns us, for example, is a student whose overall attendance for any year never reaches above 90%; the child who is often absent for a day here or there - especially Mondays or Fridays. These students may have all explained absences, but this does not mean they are really justified. These students are likely to develop big gaps in their learning because by the end of year 8 they will have missed almost a year of school, and they will not have learned to persevere with their learning because their regular absences mean they often lose momentum. Please notice your child's attendance level and be aware of whether he/she is developing a problematic attendance pattern. It can happen without you realising it.
As a result of the importance of good attendance, we have set a school target attendance level of 96%.
Attendance levels for the first half of the 2018 school year
The overall attendance level for the first half of 2018 was 94%, slightly lower than our 96% target. 53% of students have achieved the targeted attendance threshold of 96% or above. This is considerably lower than our 2017 attendance rate of 65% of students reaching this target, and lower than our 2016 rate of 58.7%. So far this year 20.5% of students have attendance rates of 90% or below (the rate at which students will miss almost one year of their primary schooling if this happens every year), which is significantly higher than the 2017 percentage of 11.9% and the 2016 percentage of 11.5%. Of greatest concern of all is that 4.1% of our students have attendance rates of below 80%, which is much higher than the 2.5% level of 2017, and 0.85% level of 2016.
The pattern of increasing rates of school absence is very concerning to us.
Family holidays overseas have continued to significantly impact on attendance. We do appreciate that trips home for family and cultural celebrations are really valuable. While we are less supportive of holidays taken during term time simply to save money, we recognise that all international travel has some educational value. However, parents do need bear in mind that during trips away within term time children will inevitably miss out on important learning, and be mindful of this when making decisions about trips during term time.
Parents also need to bear in mind that absences from school are recorded on our student management system (eTAP) under specified codes. Absences coded as 'justifed' are outlined in legislation and include absences due to illness, a medical or dental procedure, a bereavement or serious illness of a family member, a family emergency, representation at a cultural or sporting event, an examination or a force majeure. All other absences, including trips away, are coded as 'unjustified'. Here is the link to our school Attendance Procedure for further information about this.
If you know that your family will be taking a trip away during term time at some point during the year, this needs to be taken into account when considering attendance during the rest of the year. Obviously, if a child is sick, they need to stay away from school. However, the combination of a pattern of one day absences here and there along with a period of time away from school for a trip can cause concerningly low attendance for some children.
Of greatest concern to us is the number of students whose attendance is low because of a day taken off here and a day taken off there throughout the year. This is the pattern that leads to students disengaging with school over time and leaving school early in their secondary school years. This can also be the pattern of absence that can easily go unnoticed; it can seem as though a child has not really been away very much, when actually they have had quite a large percentage of time away over the course of a year or over multiple years.
We will continue to provide attendance information with achievement reports because it makes parents aware of falling attendance rates. Our school leadership and admin team tracks student attendance closely, and we report attendance to the Board of Trustees each term.
We also inform parents of attendance levels below 90% each term, and of concerning levels of lateness to school (10% or more). This is done not to pass judgement but to ensure parents are informed of the absence/lateness rates of their child/ren; this way parents can make informed decisions about their child/ren's attendance. This information will be sent out each term from our admin team rather than from individual teachers, as it is our admin and leadership team who complete tracking of overall attendance across the school.
Attendance communications will be sent out to students showing concerning attendance levels later this week. If you would like to discuss your child's attendance further, or you would like support from school with this, please contact Urs Cunningham ([email protected]) or Lesley Murrihy ([email protected]).
The Amesbury team