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Agenda Item No 12

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee [Lifelong Learning]: 17th July 2014

 

Report of the Director of Learning and Skills

 

Mid-Year School Attendance Report

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To provide Members with early indications of improvement in school attendance.

Recommendation

1.         To note mid-term performance in school attendance in advance of end of year annual report due in September 2014.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.         To provide opportunity for Members to keep school attendance under close review and to continue to inform future policy and practice.

Background

2.         The Council is committed to improving attendance in schools and has strengthened their approach by implementing the revised School Attendance Policy (which includes the advice to Governing Bodies to not authorise requests for holidays during term time) and the supportive Callio Approach to absence reduction.

3.         The Callio Approach has been adopted in all schools in the Vale of Glamorgan. Its main focus is on the implementation of a set of common escalation strategies to improve attendance, particularly for attendance between 80% and 97%.

4.         The Approach relies on secondary school Callio Co-ordinators and school based Callio Champions working closely with Council Education Welfare Officers (EWOs) in the Council's Education Welfare Service (EWS).

5.         Early indications demonstrate that their combined proactive work with children and young people, and their families, is beginning to have a positive effect on school attendance.

6.         This report is a mid-year report intended to provide early information regarding attendance improvement in advance of the end of academic year report due early in the autumn term.

7.         Previous reports to this Committee have set out the details underpinning the revised Attendance Policy and the Operating Model for the Callio Approach.

8.         Official all Wales school attendance is collected at different time points for Primary and Secondary schools.

9.         Primary attendance is collected for the full academic year and reported annually in January when comparative information is available.

10.      Secondary attendance data is collected up until the May of every year and reported annually in September when comparative information is available.

11.      This needs to be borne in mind when considering first release attendance data reported and published via the Office of National Statistics for Wales.

12.      This particular mid-year report uses interim attendance data generated by the Directorate's Data Unit and there may be minor end of year adjustments.

13.      The end of year report in the autumn will use the nationally published first release attendance data from the Office for National Statistics for Wales.

Relevant Issues and Options

14.      Since September 2013, schools in the Vale have adopted the regional Callio Approach to ensure there is a whole school and whole Authority approach to absence reduction.

15.      The Approach (and set of common escalation strategies) was originally designed by the Consortium to tackle attendance between 97% and 92%.

16.      However, the Approach has been enhanced by the EWS team in the Council to support pupils whose attendance lies between 92% and 80%. This was an informed decision taken by the EWS to foster a more proactive approach to absence reduction in this particular area.

17.      The EWS provides schools with attendance data within this range and translates it into 'hours of lost learning' per school and per child.

18.      Parents and carers are kept informed about their child's/children's attendance. The 'hours of lost learning' message provides a powerful tool to help improve attendance.

19.      All secondary schools receive termly visits from the Council's EWOs to monitor the implementation of the enhanced Callio Approach, discuss attendance data and identify actions to improve attendance levels.

20.      Targeted primary schools identified by benchmarking data, devise action plans to improve attendance and/or reduce levels of unauthorised absence. These are reviewed and up-dated as appropriate.

21.      Primary School Attendance for academic year 12/13 in the Vale of Glamorgan was 94.2% and ranked joint 5th in Wales. (School Attendance Data Appendix 1).

22.      Anglesey and Monmouthshire were highest at 94.4%.

23.      The all Wales mean for 12/13 was 93.7%.

24.      For this mid-year reporting period of 13/14 (up to and including May 2014) primary school attendance has increased to 95.3% an improvement of 1.1%.

25.      June and July school attendance will be added to this figure as we complete this academic year in July 2014.

26.      Primary unauthorised attendance for 12/13 was 1.0% which ranked the Vale 18th in Wales

27.      Merthyr, Monmouthshire and Powys achieved levels of 0.2%.

28.      The approaches aforementioned coupled with an action planned approach in schools enabled schools in the Vale of Glamorgan to reduce unauthorised absence to 0.6% to date (May 2014) i.e. by 0.4%.

29.      Furthermore:

  • Highest unauthorised absence last year = 3.2%
  • Highest unauthorised absence this year = 2.5%
  • Lowest unauthorised absence last year = 0%
  • Lowest unauthorised absence this year = 0%

30.       From September 13 - May 14 current levels of attendance are:

  • Schools 96% and above =12
  • Schools between 95% and 95.9% = 22
  • 94.9% and below = 14

31.      Progress since last year:

  • Lowest primary attendance 12-13 = 90.4%
  • Lowest primary attendance 13-14* = 92.7%
  • Highest primary attendance 12-13 = 96.3%  
  • Highest primary attendance 13-14 = 98%
  • Highest percentage gained over the last year* = 4.6%   

32.      Number of schools who have improved attendance this year = 41

33.      Individual schools yet to improve attendance  = 7

34.      Secondary Attendance also shows improvement.

35.      For the academic year 12/13 secondary school attendance in the Vale was 93.3% compared to the all Wales figure of 92.6%. This placed the Vale joint 5th nationally.

36.      Ceredigion was top ranked with 93.6%.

37.      The mean secondary school attendance is now 94.2%, the highest being Cowbridge at 95.9% and the lowest Bryn Hafren and Barry comprehensive schools at 92%.

38.      Appendix 2 shows individual secondary school attendance performance over the last three years.

39.      The majority of secondary schools except St. Richard Gwyn (showing a decrease of  -0.3%) and Bryn Hafren (flat-lined) have improved their overall attendance rates this year and up until May 2014.

40.      Over the last three years, St. Cyres has demonstrated the greatest improvement from 92.1% to 94.5% an increase of 2.3%.

41.      Appendix 3 shows secondary school unauthorised absence performance.

42.      For academic year 12/13, secondary school unauthorised absence for the Vale was 1.0% compared with 1.3% nationally.

43.      Secondary school unauthorised absence remains static at 1.0% and ranked 9th.

44.      Flintshire, Neath Port Talbot and Carmarthenshire had the lowest rates of unauthorised attendance.

45.      Reducing unauthorised absence remains a priority in Vale of Glamorgan secondary schools.

46.      Llantwit School, St. Richard Gwyn and Stanwell Schools have improved their levels of unauthorised absence this year

47.      In contrast, Bro Morgannwg, Bryn Hafren and Barry Comprehensive schools have increasing levels of unauthorised absence over the past three years.

48.      Barry Comprehensive and Bryn Hafren Schools have rates of unauthorised absence that are at least double the average rate for the Vale.

49.      Early indications are positive but more work is needed to continue to improve overall attendance and decrease unauthorised absence, particularly in identified individual schools.

50.      The Callio Approach needs to be formally evaluated, reviewed and continued as appropriate.

51.      Specific, successful aspects of the Approach need to be continued namely: the termly visits to secondary schools, data analysis and school attendance profiling, signposting to other agencies and ongoing impact evaluations.

52.      To continue working with the CSC Attendance Strategy Group to share good practice, ensure effective use of Welsh Government funding and to provide training opportunities for EWS staff.

53.      To ensure the centralised EWS implements an improved pupil tracking system, more regular supervision of casework and sharing of expertise within the team and across the Inclusion Service.

54.      To ensure that robust attendance data is available to contribute to the Wellbeing Data Pack for each school to help tailor support and challenge.

55.       To ensure that pupils referred to the EWS are regularly monitored to ensure that interventions are impacting positively on reducing persistent attendance and that the EWS is appropriately supported and challenged in their work.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

56.      The Callio central funding has been initially agreed for the eight school terms commencing September 2013, ending Easter 2016.  £188,000 of central education base budget has been made available over this period to part fund the project which is match funded by schools.  £70,000 is allocated to the 2014/15 academic year and £48,000 allocated to 2015/16.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

57.      None in this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

58.      Under the Education Act 1996 children of compulsory school age should attend school from the start of the first term commencing after their fifth birthday.  A young person ceases to be of compulsory school age on the last Friday in June of the school year in which they have their 16th birthday. 

59.      It is an offence for a parent of a child of compulsory school age that is registered at a school to fail to ensure that their child regularly attends their school.  Failure to do so ensure creates an absolute offence.  An amendment to the Education Act 1996 means that since March 2001 it has been an aggravated offence where a parent of a child of compulsory school age who, knowing that their child is failing to attend regularly at school, fails without reasonable justification to cause their child to attend.

60.      Under the Education (Pupil Registration) Wales Regulations 2010 the school is required to take an attendance register twice each day, at the start of the morning session and once at the start of the afternoon session.  In the event of any action in respect of non-school attendance, it is the register that is the basis of the evidence relied upon.

61.      Under section 437 of the Education Act 1996 Local Authorities have a duty to ensure that a child for whom they are responsible is receiving a suitable education, either by regular attendance at school or otherwise. 

62.      The Education (Pupil Registration) Wales Regulations 2010 gives schools discretionary power to grant leave for the purpose of an annual family holiday during term time.  There is no automatic right to withdraw pupils from school for a holiday and in law parents have to apply for permission in advance.  Such permission is usually granted in accordance with arrangements made by the governing body of the school.  The Regulations state that only in exceptional circumstances may the amount of leave granted exceed (in total) more than ten school days in any twelve week period.

The legislative Framework:

63.      The following legislation, guidelines and documents underpin this policy:

  • Education Act 1996
  • Children Act 1989
  • Children Act 2004
  • Education and Inspections Act 2006
  • The National Model for School Improvement
  • National Service Framework for Children, Young People and Maternity Services in Wales, WAG (2005)
  • Behaving and Attending: Action Plan Responding to the National Behaviour and
  • Attendance Review, WAG (2009)
  • Inclusion and Pupil Support, WAG Circular 47/2006
  • Exclusion from Schools and Pupil Referral Units, WAG Circular 001/2004
  • Improving Attendance 2006, Estyn
  • Education (Admission of Looked After Children) (Wales) Regulations 2009
  • Services for children and young people with emotional and mental health needs, Wales Audit Office and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, 2009.

Crime and Disorder Implications

64.      Children and young people who attend school regularly are less likely to become engaged in any unlawful actively.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

65.      Every child has a right to attend school regularly. The body of this report is fully compliant with the United Nations Rights of the Child.

Corporate/Service Objectives

66.      The need to secure high levels of school attendance underpins many of the Council's school performance and improvement objectives.

Policy Framework and Budget

67.      Within existing policy framework and budgets.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

68.      Headteachers have been consulted about the proposed changes affecting holidays in term time and are supportive of the change.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

69.      Lifelong Learning

Background Papers

The Education (Pupil Registration) (Wales) Regulations 2010

National Model for School Improvement

United Nations Rights of the Child

Callio Attendance Strategy

Behaving and Attending: Action Plan Responding to the National Behaviour and

Attendance Review, WAG (2009)

 

Contact Officer

Lynette Jones, Head of School Improvement and Inclusion

 

Officers Consulted

David Davies, Lead Officer for Inclusion

Meryl Plummer, Lead Officer for School Improvement

Nicky Sturgess, Lead Officer for Education Welfare and Behaviour Management

Jenny Smith, Safeguarding Officer

 

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Director of Learning and Skills

 

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