Understanding the Current Attendance Challenges
In his latest blog, Lee Owston from Ofsted highlights a pressing issue: persistent school absence. The aftermath of the pandemic has led to nearly 1 in 4 pupils missing significant school time - a worrying increase from pre-pandemic levels. Ofsted's concern revolves around the profound impact this can have on children's education and overall well-being. The correlation between high attendance and positive educational outcomes is undeniable, as consistent attendance ensures children don't miss crucial parts of their learning and experience the full spectrum of school life, including peer learning, extracurricular activities, and social development.
Strategies to Improve Attendance
As a school, we are integral to improving the attendance of our pupils, and while we may not have control over all factors, there are several proactive strategies that we can employ:
1. Understand the causes of absenteeism:
- Meet with parents and carers on a regular basis. Talk to them about the issues they face and come up with solutions together. Create a plan and meet regularly after that to ensure that they have the support they need.
- Conduct regular reviews of attendance data to identify patterns or specific groups with high absenteeism.
- Use surveys or focus groups with parents, students, and teachers to understand underlying issues contributing to absences.
2. Strengthen communication with parents and carers:
- Develop clear, consistent messaging about the importance of attendance through parent-teacher meetings, school newsletters, and the school website.
- Provide parents with information on how absences impact learning and overall development.
- Establish a system for early notification and intervention when a child begins to show a pattern of absences.
3. Building strong family-school relationships:
- Implement parent engagement programs that involve families in school activities and decision-making processes.
- Organise workshops or seminars for parents on topics like child development, educational support at home, and managing common barriers to attendance.
- Create a welcoming school environment that encourages parents to communicate openly with staff.
4. Reinforce the value of attendance:
- Utilise assemblies and newsletters to celebrate attendance achievements, share attendance-related news, and reinforce the value of being present.
- Integrate attendance themes into the curriculum, highlighting how each day's learning builds on the previous.
- Implement recognition programs or incentives for good or improved attendance, tailored to different age groups.
5. Offer personalised support:
- Offer mentorship or counselling for pupils struggling with attendance due to personal, social, or academic issues.
- Provide additional academic support or tutoring to pupils who have missed school to help them catch up.
- Develop individualised attendance improvement plans for pupils with chronic absenteeism, involving their families in the process.
6. Collaborate with your community:
- Partner with local community organisations such as transportation or healthcare.
- Engage with local businesses or charities to provide resources for families that might be facing economic or other challenges impacting on their child’s school attendance.
What resources are available?
- Our Audit Tool for Improving School Attendance is a handy guide to help you to get started.
- The NHS Guide for Parents/Carers: 'Is My Child Too Ill for School?' Offers guidance to help parents and carers decide when a child should stay home due to illness.
- Ofsted's Report on Securing Good Attendance provides practical examples and case studies on effective attendance strategies.
- Ofsted’s Webinar on attendance strategies delivers insights and tips on improving attendance from experts.
- Department for Education (DfE) Communication Toolkit: A resource for crafting effective communication strategies with families about attendance.
- DfE Data Visualisation Tool: Allows schools to analyse attendance data effectively to identify trends and target interventions.
- Barnardo’s offers many support programmes for parents and carers.
- Educational Psychology Services: Offer support for schools to address the psychological factors affecting attendance, such as anxiety or behavioural issues.
- Local Authority Support Services: Many local authorities provide support and resources to schools for tackling attendance issues.