Support for families to improve school attendance.
Senior school, primary school, infant school teachers, teaching assistants and those of us in the teaching recruitment arena… One thing we all have in common is a passion for education – and it’s a perennial disappointment when, despite all of our efforts, societal factors beyond our control adversely affect young people’s progress and development. Among the most deleterious of these is truancy – which has many causes and some very damaging effects.
How does non-attendance affect students?
It hardly needs to be mentioned that persistent absenteeism usually ruins the individual student’s academic performance – and of course as time goes on the child gets left behind, is unable to follow classes and ever more reluctant to attend school. In the short term this vicious circle tends to increase delinquent, criminal and gang behaviour – and in the longer term it can ingrain family poverty, contribute to poor physical and mental health and even increase the risk of imprisonment and addiction.
It affects everyone else too. Truants reluctantly returned to school upset the equilibrium of the classroom, worsening their classmates’ behaviour and attitude. It also makes it impossible for teachers to keep accurate records and hampers class progress towards instructional targets, with consequent damage to the school’s standing.
Targeting the root causes – with new advice and ‘innovative interventions’ for schools
As the new Autumn term begins, the Department of Education announces a package of new measures to improve school attendance. Alongside targeted support for individual pupils and their families, this includes what’s described as a ‘powerful attendance data visualisation tool’ designed to help schools, academy trusts, local authorities, the government, and teachers identify where there’s an issue.
Three-year 1-2-1 attendance mentoring pilot
The manner in which the initiative aims to tackle factors behind non-attendance, including mental health issues and bullying, is demonstrated by a pilot scheme also being launched to coincide with the new term. The three-year 1-2-1 attendance mentoring pilot will give more than 1600 ‘persistently and severely absent’ pupils individually tailored support, initially in Middlesbrough and across the country next year.
Interactive national attendance dashboard
The data generated by the visualisation tool feeds into a new interactive national attendance dashboard, which enables schools, trusts, local authorities and, of course, teachers not only to analyse attendance easily and in amazing detail but also to identify problem areas and respond rapidly.
Schools should provide ‘individualised support to families that need it’
The initiative is part of a range of measures included in the government’s Schools White Paper, notably new best-practice guidance for schools, trusts and local authorities on improving attendance, which states that they should provide ‘individualised support to families that need it’ and issue fines and other measures for unauthorised absenteeism.
Helping pupils get the utmost from the classroom
It’s hardly surprising that the evidence shows that pupils who attend school most consistently get the best exam results – and it is expected that this new focus on helping them get the utmost from their classroom time will have a beneficial impact on academic performance over the coming years.