Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 14TH JULY, 2014
REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (LIFELONG LEARNING): 23RD JUNE, 2014
â€œ REVISED SCHOOL ATTENDANCE POLICY (CMCS) –
The Cabinet Member, in presenting the report, stated that following a Primary Headteachers meeting and as a result of a recommendation of this Scrutiny Committee, he had prepared a report on a revised School Attendance Policy for debate. The main change proposed in the Attendance Policy was to tighten the discretion available to Headteachers to authorise family holidays during term time. It was widely recognised that a child’s success at school would be affected negatively by poor attendance as lower attendance was correlated with lower attainment. Children who did not attend regularly may not be able to keep up with their work and in a busy school day this could sometimes be difficult for schools to find extra time needed to help a child catch up. In addition, research had shown that children who were not in school were more vulnerable and could be easily drawn into crime and antisocial behaviour and were more likely to be unemployed after leaving school. Securing strong productive links between the school and the pupil’s family was a key contributory factor to maintaining and improving attendance at school. Improving behaviour and attendance was an integral part of a range of educational initiatives such as the Foundation Phase, 14-19 Learning Pathways and the Engagement and Progression Strategy.
The Vale Education Welfare Service (EWS) aimed to provide professional, quality support to children, young people, families and schools so that children and young people living in the Vale of Glamorgan can benefit from the educational opportunities provided to them.
A Callio initative had been developed regionally and enhanced locally to improve the consistency in approach to absence reduction. Callio co-ordinators had also been appointed in each secondary school to focus more closely on proactive and preventative measures to absence reduction. The EWS and Callio co-ordinators, together with the school based Callio Champions, provided a more holistic approach to support schools, pupils and parents to ensure regular attendance and address problems relating to absenteeism.
The Education (Pupil Registration) (Wales) Regulations 2010 gave schools discretionary power to grant leave for the purpose of an annual family holiday during term time. This means that parents do not have an automatic right to withdraw pupils from school for a holiday and, in law, have to apply for permission in advance.
Following a review of the School Attendance Policy and taking into account the Regulations and Welsh Government Guidance and the views of Headteachers, it was being proposed that all Governing Bodies be advised not to authorise any requests for holidays during term time, except where there were exceptional and extenuating family circumstances.
The exceptional and extenuating circumstances would include and would normally be limited to:
· family holiday request from parents who are employed by the Ministry of Defence; and/or
· family requests for holidays due to religious beliefs.
Such considerations may result in the school agreeing with the request and authorising the absence accordingly. This would mean that requests for holidays during term time would not be authorised by the school unless there was a decision by the school that exceptional and extenuating circumstances applied.
It was understood that this would be a uniform policy across the South Central Consortium in September 2014: Bridgend, RCT and Merthyr were presently seeking to amend their policies with the policy already having been introduced in Cardiff.
There was an expectation that parents and carers would abide by these arrangements in order to continue to secure the best possible educational outcomes for their child/ children during their time in schools in the Vale of Glamorgan.
Where parents kept a child away from school or failed to seek permission in exceptional circumstances, the time taken would be treated as an unauthorised absence in accordance with the application of the policy.
When making judgements about extended absence for pupils from minority ethnic families, schools were asked to ensure that full account had been taken, not only of the Regulations and Welsh Assembly Government guidance, but also of the situation of minority ethnic families in general and the particular circumstances relating to each individual case. It was important that schools showed an understanding of the parents’ perspective even though the school may not be able to comply with a request for absence. Schools should also ensure that all parents are aware of the school’s policy on absence. In the case of minority ethnic parents, special care should be taken to ensure that the Regulations are fully explained and understood. with interpreters being available if necessary.
The Cabinet Member reiterated that as an Authority, the Council had a duty to ensure that children were in school and advised Members that Headteachers had overwhelmingly voted for the proposed suggested change. Members of the Committee fully supported the introduction of the change, with the suggestion that parents be given the information at the start of the school term in September. It was considered important that the message was relayed to parents as easily as possible, although the Committee were aware that the policy required to be adopted by each of the Governing Bodies.
A Member queried how other schools got the message across to parents with it being further suggested officers consult with other Local Authorities to share good practice. Although Members considered that attendance needed to be a national strategy, they felt that this was at least a starting point. The Head of School Improvement also advised that the Estyn inspection team were taking a very strong line in relation to attendance. Although the Scrutiny Committee could monitor attendance levels, continue to do so and recommend the policy, it was reiterated that it was a matter for the Governing Body to enforce. It was subsequently unanimously agreed and
(1) T H A T Cabinet be advised to implement in full the revised policy attached to the report for September 2014.
(2) T H A T an impact evaluation report be presented to the Scrutiny Committee in six months following its implementation.
Reasons for recommendations
(1) To advise Cabinet of the Scrutiny Committee’s views and seek approval.
(2) To ensure that a further opportunity for consideration of the impact of the revised policy is provided.â€
Attached as Appendix – Report to Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 23rd June, 2014