Q. I have been asked to update/write a new attendance policy for school. I have looked at some examples, but could you confirm what areas an attendance policy must include?

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A. It is broadly recognised that key to improving school attendance and reducing persistent absence is having a whole-school ethos and culture that promotes good attendance. Central to this is having a clear attendance policy which all staff, parents and pupils recognise.

At the time of writing there is no legal requirement to have an attendance policy and, as such, there is no set of specific criteria that must be included. However, the DfE recently published a consultation, School attendance: Improving the consistency of support, which set out four proposals, the first of which includes a requirement for schools to have an attendance policy.

The consultancy document set out the following as needing to be covered in an attendance policy:

  • How the school sets clear expectations for parents and pupils.
  • The day-to-day processes around attendance management that parents can expect, for example, phoning the parent on the first day of an unauthorised absence.
  • How the school is promoting good attendance, e.g. through regular monitoring.
  • The named member(s) of staff responsible for attendance, such as a senior leader and/or the pastoral staff.
  • The specific strategies the school is using to address persistent absence. This might include how the school will use data to target improvement action on the pupils or pupil cohorts that need it most, and how they will work with wider services to provide a whole-family response.
  • A clear escalation route in the event of a pupil’s failure to attend regularly, including:
    • how pastoral staff will provide support and access wider services
    • clarity on when the LA/other agencies will be involved and what support they can provide
    • the point at which sanctions will be sought if the support does not work or is not engaged with.

Your LA or multi-academy trust may have a model policy, and there are lots of examples of model policies available which can be a good starting point. However, it is important to note that your school policy is for your school community and needs to reflect the specific expectations, practice and procedures for your setting. Consider which partners you wish to consult with and engage in the process of developing a policy, for example parent groups, pupils (perhaps a focus group with some of your poorer attendees), governors, teaching and non-teaching staff.

You also need to consider how you will share and communicate the policy and key elements – the policy needs to be communicated to and understood by the school community. This will include:

  • positioning it on your website in a prominent and accessible place
  • having parent- and pupil-friendly letters, leaflets and materials that draw attention to key aspects of the policy
  • considering if these need to be published in other languages than just English
  • sharing with all school staff and giving training where needed.
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About Author

Joanne Sierzega

Joanne Sierzega worked for almost 16 years in local authority education welfare. Since then she has established CSAWS (Central School Attendance and Welfare Services Ltd) with two partners. CSAWS comprises a team of education welfare officers who are committed to achieving better outcomes for children by securing regular attendance at school.

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