We thought you'd appreciate some more information on term-time absences, as some of you will have received letters regarding your children's attendance and punctuality.
Absences due to illness are unavoidable in most cases. There are also times when a child is ill in school and we have to ask you to pick them up early. And, of course, the '48-hour rule' applies when pupils are physically sick or have an upset tummy.
But there's no getting away from the fact that good attendance and punctuality is vital to good progress. This page explains school's position in this area, and our official duties and responsibilities to the Department for Education (DfE) and Southampton Local Authority.
There are several ways a parent or carer can inform us of absence, and of course we have to be satisfied that it's someone with parental responsibility giving us the information:
For safeguarding reasons, it really is vital that you let us know each day why your child is absent from school. If we don't hear from parents, we'll text first and then ring to ensure that they are safe at home. It is free to respond to the 'Truancy Call' text messages if you are low on credit on your mobile phone.
In some cases, if we're particularly worried or have not had a response from a text or phone call, we'll do a home visit and then if necessary inform social care and the police, who can do a welfare check on a child at our request. This is something we don't want to have to do, but we have a duty of care to follow up on the absence if we're at all concerned.
Anyone with COVID-19 symptoms (High temperature, new continuous cough and/or loss of taste or smell) or a positive test result should stay at home and self-isolate immediately. If you have symptoms of COVID-19, you should arrange to have a PCR test as soon as possible. This still applies even if you have received one or more doses of COVID-19 vaccine.
Individuals are not required to self-isolate if they live in the same household as someone with COVID-19, or are a close contact of someone with COVID-19, and any of the following apply:
Instead, they will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace, informed they have been in close contact with a positive case and advised to take a PCR test. We would encourage all individuals to take a PCR test if advised to do so.
Tests can be booked via this link: Book a test
You must also contact school to let them know you are self-isolating while you wait for your results.
When you get your result, you must contact school to say if it is positive or negative. We will then be able to help you with the next steps.
There are several codes in use for recording attendance and absences. Two are recorded each day, for the morning and afternoon sessions. Here are the most common.
Looking at this from a parent's perspective, it really is essential that you let us know the reason for absence, otherwise it has to be marked on the register as an 'O'. Unauthorised absences (including code U for late arrivals after the register closes) are the reason that some parents nationwide have been fined or taken to court for their child's poor attendance.
We send out letters to parents whose child's attendance has fallen to 96% or below. This could have been due to a holiday at the beginning of the year or a spell of illness, particularly in the Autumn and Spring terms when the flu and cold bugs are thriving. We don't enjoy sending these letters out, but we hope you understand that we have a duty to alert parents to their child's attendance. Absence linked to COVID linked self-isolation does not count as an absence and will not affect your child's overall attendance percentage.
Ongoing poor attendance (below 90%) is shared with our Education Welfare Officer (EWO), to whom we report each half-term. This can lead to an Attendance Meeting at school or over the phone. The aim of these meetings is to give school, parents and the EWO the chance to sit together and look at reasons for absence, the impact this is having, and then discuss ways to improve the situation.
In line with Government and Local Education Authority policy, any holidays taken in school time have to be recorded as an unauthorised absence. Our school is accountable to the DfE and Southampton Local Authority (LA) for attendance.
Holidays in term-time are the main reason for lower attendance, and the LA ask schools to refer absences to them for the issuing of a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN). We use NAHT guidance for 'exceptional circumstances' when making a decision about what is deemed authorised or unauthorised - and our reasons are closely monitored and scrutinised by those above us. We have authorised a number of days off due to exceptional circumstances (e.g. day of wedding or funeral, etc.) but most do not fall under this category and have to be designated as unauthorised. This is then relayed to the LA who decide whether to issue a FPN.
The FPN is not a school matter. It is not levied by school, and we do not see a penny of the fine being issued!
Regarding holidays, we really do empathise with parents, as we know that holidays taken in term time are considerably cheaper than those taken in school holidays, and we also know that some of our parents can only get time off work on specific dates. The only advice we can give is that if you are going to take your child away in term time, please do send a letter to Mrs Halsey and inform the school office so that we know where your child is, and that they are safe.
Absences do affect how well children do in school. On the face of it, 90% attendance looks reasonable. But if you stretch that out over a child's time in school, 90% from Reception to Y9 means that a child has missed a whole school year!
Normally, lessons in school are progressive. At the start of a new topic, children learn the first ideas and 'building blocks' which are then built on over a week or term to help each child secure their knowledge and skills. Later, more advanced lessons rely on this earlier understanding to move the children forward. Absences cause gaps in children's understanding which then have to be filled in. Essentially, they're playing catch-up. This means that a Teaching Assistant who normally works with a particular group or child may need to be reassigned so that the child who was absent can have the extra input they need to catch up. In these cases, the absence is impacting on other children's education too.
For every school, the issue of children's absences is always difficult; but please be assured that our intent here is not to upset anyone, nor to be heavy-handed or awkward. Our intent is to keep you informed about our duty to your children as learners, yourselves as parents and also to the authorities that regulate school. We implore anyone who is struggling to get their child into school to contact their child's class teacher initially (and then Mrs Cook if the situation doesn’t improve) to discuss the reasons and work on ways to improve attendance.