"Joined-up working" to boost Rotherham school attendance praised by education minister

"Joined-up working" to boost Rotherham school attendance praised by education minister

By Michael Upton | 27/01/2022

'Joined-up working' to boost Rotherham school attendance praised by education minister

EDUCATION minister Robin Walker praised Rotherham Council for its “joined-up working” with schools to boost pupils’ attendance against a backdrop of increasing truancy nationwide.

The schools minister visited Wath Academy today to speak to school staff and council education welfare officers about how they are jointly supporting and intervening with families of pupils regularly missing classes.

He said the government was consulting on new measures to tackle low attendance in some areas, including bringing in statutory guidance for local authorities and school academy trusts.

In some areas, the Department for Education says, councils are pursuing up to 1,500 fines annually for persistent non-attendance while in others, they are not pursuing any.

“In an ideal world I would love there to be no need for fixed penalties, but we all know we don’t live in an ideal world,” said Mr Walker (pictured above with Wath students).

“What has been interesting in Rotherham is the recognition that fixed penalties should be a last resort.

“It’s about what they can do to encourage more families to get more children into school and make sure as a result that we will need far fewer fixed penalties.

“What we have seen in some areas is councils have stopped using fixed penalties.”

Mr Walker added: “In Rotherham, the local council and Wath Academy have been working together to make attendance a real priority.

“It was great to see some of the work going on to support children and parents and make sure people can be in school wherever possible and to see what joint working has been able to achieve.”

Mr Walker said it was the government’s aim to ensure there was a joined-up strategy for keeping children in school.

He said Rotherham had seen a fall of persistent non-attendance from 14 per cent to 12.7 per cent since 2014/15.

“This shows the hard work going on to ensure children are going to school and we are using Rotherham as an example of what councils can do,” said Mr Walker.

He said he had learned how Wath staff and council education welfare officers jointly visited the homes of non-attending children together and took part in multi-agency meetings to improve attendance, adding: “That kind of intervention can make a big difference.”

In some cases, students who had been missing four out of five school days had bounced back to full attendance and engaged fully with GCSE studies.

Mr Walker said he was keen to ensure pupils with barriers to learning were supported, including those with special educational needs.

He said he had been inspired to see how Wath Academy staff were helping blind students take exams alongside their classmates, adding: “It’s that kind of support we need across the piece.”

Addressing potential concerns around Covid risks in schools, the minister said 9,000 “air cleaning” systems would be issued to schools based on the readings for carbon monoxide monitors.

He said there was little sense in allocating systems to all schools, adding that they should be “targeted where it is really needed”.

 

 

 

 



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