What schools can do to encourage good attendance at school
Experience shows that a welcoming and positive school is the most important ingredient in the recipe for achieving successful attendance. A school should be welcoming for pupils, parents and the staff who work there. In striving to create that welcoming atmosphere schools will need to acknowledge their responsibility to support attendance and deal with problems that may lead to non-attendance.
Pupil non-attendance is a complex issue caused by a range of interrelated influences, many of which are outside of the school arena, e.g. home, family and environmental factors. However, there are many ways in which schools can encourage and sustain good attendance:
- Ensure pupils feel their presence in school is important and that they will be missed. If they are absent their absence will be followed up.
- Staff should have high expectations for all pupils regardless of their ability.
- Timetable Education Welfare Officer/staff contact time to guarantee appropriate use of this valuable tool.
- Initiate a system to reward good attendance and punctuality.
- Issue or display notes or certificate to celebrate success, emphasising positive work, behaviour attendance and punctuality as well as academic achievement.
- Reduce the risk of bullying.
- Identify special educational needs (SEN) at an early stage.
- Implement structured programmes to address specific curriculum-based difficulties, e.g. programmes on misapplication, flexi-schooling, literacy and numeracy support.
- Actively discourage parents from taking family holidays during term time. It should be remembered that the head teacher has the authority to approve or not approve a request for holiday leave. Some schools refuse to authorise any holidays unless there are exceptional circumstances and make parents aware of that policy on admission. Further guidance and support is available from the Education Welfare Service.
- Inform parents of any unauthorised absences.
- Value the importance of teacher/pupil relationships and ensure there is a support system to prevent conflict or disaffection.
- Include information about attendance in weekly staff bulletins.
- Set good role models.
- Ensure parents and carers feel welcome in the school by:
- inviting parents to assemblies and presentations - this is an effective way of making positive contact;
- involving parents in the life of the school;
- developing a pack for parents, giving information about school systems and procedures. Ideally this should be in different community languages;
- telling parents the school's view of the importance of attendance and reiterating this regularly;
- developing a school newsletter;
- developing a home/school diary to enhance communication and record good attendance and any rewards earned;
- involving parents in planning meetings.
- School clubs offer the opportunity for pupils to develop not only their skills but also friendships and social competence. Breakfast clubs, lunchtime clubs and homework clubs prove a very effective way to support attendance and help pupils to develop a feeling of ownership of their school environment.
- At primary level make full use of the Spike Attendance Project and the various initiatives and events.