New school attendance strategy set for approval

(Pic: WalesOnline)

 

It’s perceived wisdom that there’s a link between attending school and doing better – though this ignores all the other complicated explanations for how children perform at school like poverty, mental & physical health, bullying, intelligence/natural ability and the impact of learning disabilities.

Also, a recently-published Welsh Government review found that fining parents for taking term-time holidays “had little effect” on school attendance rates.

In the race to get the best possible attendance rates, Bridgend Council’s Cabinet is set to approve a new three-year school attendance strategy running until 2021 (pdf) – though I doubt it’s much different to the one they’ve already got.

Attendance rates in Bridgend have generally improved over the years, with the average primary school attendance rate being 95.1% in 2016-17 and for secondary schools 94.2% – putting Bridgend county in the top half of a ranked list of all Welsh councils and above the Welsh average in both cases.

In summary:

  • Parents are ultimately responsible for making sure their children attend school regularly and on time.
  • School attendance is essential and pupils should feel supported and rewarded for good attendance, with schools encouraged to promote good attendance (i.e. prizes, certificates).
  • BCBC takes compulsory education and its responsibility for enforcing school attendance very seriously.
  • BCBC will offer (unspecified) support to children who miss school because of actual or perceived bullying and recognises it as a reason behind poor attendance.
  • Headteachers have discretion when authorising term-time holidays, but parents don’t have a right to take children out of school for a holiday and must ask for permission in advance.
  • In families where there is an attendance problem, BCBC will look towards early intervention but will seek prosecutions if families don’t work with Education Welfare Officers (aka. “Whipperines”) to improve attendance.
  • Prosecution will be in the form of fines issued in certain circumstances, such as: 10 unauthorised absences or recorded lateness in a single term, absence due to term-time holidays, truancy and (as mentioned) a failure by families to engage with Education Welfare Officers to improve attendance.
  • Fines will be £60 if paid within 28 days, rising to £120 after 28-42 days. If the fine isn’t paid within 42 days, it goes to court (with the possibility of a bigger fine, court parental order or even a prison sentence).
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