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Battles over attendance at school - appropriate or not?


Anyone connected with schools, particularly those families with vulnerable children, is well aware of the current focus on attendance.

There has been a recent report by Public First which has attracted considerable attention (https://www.publicfirst.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2023/09/ATTENDANCE-REPORT-V02.pdf) and I wanted to highlight it and celebrate the fact that it is the first thing that I have read in the last 12 months that reflects the reality of experience for schools and families.

The ground has shifted, the game has changed and the social contract between families and schools around attendance has been broken since the pandemic in ways that the government is struggling to comprehend.

The Public First report was based on focus groups of parents and young people and puts flesh on the dry bones of the statistics for school absence. There are 10 headline findings...

All of these make sense in the reality of life in schools. Just this morning I was talking to a parent under threat of sanctions for low attendance - "antagonistic" is definitely the right word for their perception of the threat. Low attendance due to anxiety is a real issue and sanctions are not the only way forward. I fully understand the safeguarding responsibilities of the school and the need to know where children are and that they are safe from harm, but for some children a hybrid model of schooling may be appropriate. Most children undoubtedly learn best when in school, but for some children that is definitely not the case - my experience of leading a school through the pandemic showed me that some children definitely made better progress when learning at home. We need an intelligent, constructive approach to each child's and family's needs when it comes to attendance - not the current threatening approach.


Dare I say it? Many schools do not want to implement the current system, but they have no choice in the current political climate... Almost all school staff want to do the right thing by each individual child....


What is in the best interests of our children? Where can we find common ground between schools and families in the current situation?

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