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Improving attendance and reducing persistent absence

Section 4: Providing whole staff training

This section is divided into two parts:

A) Staff roles
B) Attendance codes

A) Staff roles

The National Strategies Behaviour and Attendance in-depth audit for attendance provides a useful starting point for raising staff awareness of the importance of a whole-school approach to improving attendance and an opportunity for everyone to contribute to planning and carrying out developmental work.

In addition to specific training to raise staff awareness of how they can contribute to reducing persistent absence, many other activities for continuing professional development (CPD) will have an attendance dimension. For example, work on how to prevent bullying, on social and emotional aspects of learning (SEAL) and on raising attainment all have direct links to attendance, where absence can be both a cause and an effect. Staff undertaking the National Programme for Specialist Leaders in Behaviour and Attendance will also be able to focus on attendance as one of their areas of study. It therefore is important that attendance is not seen as standing alone from other whole–school development work.

All teaching and support staff have a crucial role to play in improving and encouraging good attendance.

Some questions a school may like to consider are:

The site manager

What is the impact of how the site manager interacts with pupils before and after school and at breaks and lunchtimes?

Receptionist

How are pupils treated when they sign in late? Is it likely to encourage them to be on time in future or not bother to come into school at all? Are parents/carers engaged in limiting pupil lateness?

Form tutors

Do pupils feel that their tutor has a genuine and informed interest in their well–being? When pupils return after an absence, does their tutor adopt an appropriate attitude in welcoming them back and following up reasons for absence?

Class teachers

Do teachers understand the potential impact of an inappropriate comment when a pupil returns from a period of absence?

Subject leaders

In schemes of work, is attention paid to providing catch–up material for pupils who return after periods of absence? Is attendance at lessons monitored to identify potential teaching and learning issues that could lead to poor attendance? Do subject leaders monitor the attainment of pupils against their attendance?

Pastoral leaders

Is the attendance of individual pupils and groups of pupils tracked and correlated with their progress? Are opportunities provided for pupils to catch up with classwork and coursework outside lesson time?

Senior leaders

Do pupils feel that senior staff know when they have been absent and are interested in them? Do senior members of staff ensure that all members of staff are accountable for the impact they have on attendance? Is attendance at lessons included on agendas for monitoring and evaluation meetings with subject leaders?

All members of staff have a responsibility to encourage good attendance in the way they interact with pupils on a daily basis. All staff should also be aware of their responsibilities in terms of the expectations the school has of them as part of their specific role in the school. These should be made explicit and shared with all staff as part of the school's attendance policy (see Section 1).

Schools should ensure that the roles expected of all members of staff in improving attendance are made explicit in terms of both expected tasks (e.g. clear instruction on registration procedures) and, for example, their approach to pupils who return after periods of absence. This can be achieved most effectively as part of a training session for both teaching and support staff, during which the interdependence of their roles in promoting good attendance can be highlighted.

All teaching and support staff should know what part they play in the school's internal escalation procedures and its reward and sanctions policy. This should ensure that good and improved attendance is rewarded and that any emerging problem is dealt with speedily.

Attendance has a direct impact on attainment; attendance is therefore a school improvement issue and should be analysed alongside attainment data at both school and subject levels to indicate areas for action (see Section 3).

B) Attendance codes

Registration procedures need to be clearly outlined in the school’s attendance policy and repeated in the staff handbook. Accurate recording is essential in order to meet legal requirements and promote the safety of all pupils.

Different schools will have different procedures for allocating attendance and absence codes. In most schools, this will involve the form or class teacher; however, it is important for all staff to have a general understanding of when each code may be used and its statistical meaning. Staff responsible for entering codes should have a thorough understanding of the issues regarding attendance. Staff should also be aware of when and to whom they should refer instances of absence in accordance with school guidelines. For example, a school might decide that it requires tutors to refer all pupils when absence through sickness exceeds a certain percentage in the year. Clear guidance also needs to be given on what constitutes ‘other authorised circumstances’ so that a consistent approach is maintained across the school.

Full guidance on the use of codes and an explanation of the regulations governing the keeping of pupil registers are available from the DCSF School attendance website.