Report of Service Director, Education, Schools and Inclusion
Committee received a report and presentation on school attendance in Gateshead for the academic year 2021-22.
In terms of current strengths it was noted that Children’s Social Care team is looking at innovative ways to improve attendance in schools. In addition, there is the Social Worker in schools programme which supports individual schools to offer advice and guidance. The total outreach of the programme is in excess of 6,000 young people and their families. It was acknowledged that this approach has enabled a robust multi-agency safeguarding approach to wider factors that can affect school attendance.
The Team Around the School model works with pupils and families identified, including around improving school attendance. There is also a robust approach to legal intervention when there are persistent non-attenders. The legal team works well with schools to address this issue.
In terms of challenges, there is a DfE national strategy on addressing issues it has recognised across the country as a result of Covid. Therefore, work is ongoing internally to align strategies and approaches across the system to the government’s strategy. There is also a challenger around ensuring stronger governance and performance management arrangements, as well as using data more effectively and developing internal approach for school colleagues.
In terms of next steps it was noted that there will be the development of a graduated partnership approach to make certain there is an integrated service offer. There will also be a review of existing partnership governance arrangements and an alignment of strategies and priorities. Recruitment of a data officer is underway to ensure performance management systems support the routine, robust interrogation of data. This will allow resources to be directed more efficiently and effectively.
It was questioned as to when a school would go out to speak to a family once attendance of a pupil was recognised to be a problem. It was confirmed that all schools have attendance policies and have a member of staff responsible for attendance within school. Thresholds vary from school to school and schools should consider each case on its merits, looking at the need for support or whether the case should be referred to the authority for prosecution. It was noted that all schools understand the needs of its community and therefore the approach to attendance should be school led. It was noted that once a case comes to the Attendance Panel they will look at what should be in place and make recommendations to the school if necessary.
It was queried as to how often prosecutions occur. It was confirmed that there are not many prosecutions, there were only two court cases this year and it is mainly penalty notices.
Concerns were raised that without visits from Education Welfare Officers any wider family issues are not being picked up as quickly. It was acknowledged that most schools would act quickly if there was no first day response and take a proactive approach to getting pupils into school. Schools are held to account through Ofsted in terms of attendance so do take it seriously.
It was questioned as to whether there were examples of parents using the system to aid non-attendance, for example asking for a CAMHS referral through a GP. It was confirmed that schools need to consider their own attendance policy and if they feel a child cannot attend school this should be referred to the authority.
It was queried as to who would provide school work after 15 days for a child refusing to attend school. It was confirmed that this would be the authority, it would be 10 hours per week with a one-to-one tutor. The authority would liaise with the child’s school to provide progress information as the child is still on roll there. This arrangement would be reviewed on a six monthly basis.
RESOLVED - That the Committee noted the information presented.