New government figures show that pupil absence is at its lowest level for at least 8 years with a sharp drop in children regularly missing school. Louise Regan, head teacher at Hillocks Primary School and the Foundation Stage Unit, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire talks about the strategies she used to improve attendance.
The school has 300 pupils aged 3-11 and is situated in an area of high social disadvantage with above average unemployment and social housing which has had an effect on attendance at the school.
When I started at school in 2001 school attendance was around 92%, which is well below the national average of 95%. I made a decision to focus on improving attendance because once attendance has improved; children’s performance would also improve.
Some of the strategies we have implemented include:
- Monitoring attendance on a weekly basis
- Certificates and prizes for FS2 and KS1 children for 100% attendance
- Prize draw for KS2 children to win £10 for 100% attendance
- Prize draw for parents to win a £10 supermarket voucher for 100% attendance
- Off-site visit for the class with the best attendance
We also decided to focus on building relationships with parents. Some of the hard to reach parents were not responsive to phone calls, letters or meeting requests, so we decided to try a school attendance messaging system called Truancy Call from Contact Group.
The system automatically messages students that are absent and will repeatedly contact the parent or guardian until a response has been received. We get a much better response because parents are required to send a message back to prevent further contact that day. We then get confirmation that the parent has received the message and a response back. Previously the school business manager would spend a lot of time making calls and trying to contact the parents and now the system does it in seconds.
Our strategies have helped attendance rise from around 92% to 96.2% in 2014, which is above the national average of 95% – a point about which we are very proud. This success is due to our strategies and work with the children, parents and teachers to emphasise the importance of good attendance. With increased attendance the children’s performance has improved and they have developed close relationships with other children and staff.
Truancy Call has also improved responses from parents and saved us a lot of time following up when they do not answer. We can also use the system to create attendance reports for our school governors. Improving attendance is something that schools have to constantly work on and they should look at a range of strategies to find those that work for them.