Written: October 2016
By Amanda Preece and James Harvey
Manor Green Primary School strives to be a successful school and all pupils play their part in making it so. We aim for an environment which enables and encourages all members of the community to reach out for excellence. For our pupils to gain the greatest benefit from their education it is vital that they attend regularly and pupils should be at school, on time, every day the school is open unless the reason for the absence is unavoidable.
It is very important therefore that parents / carers make sure that pupils attend regularly and this Policy sets out how together this will be achieved
This policy reflects the vision and aims of Manor Green Primary School by:
- Encouraging staff, parents and children to maximise the learning experience in order that all children reach their full potential.
- Providing clear procedures for involving parents relating to school attendance.
- To keep an accurate and up to date record of attendance
- To inform parents/carers of punctuality and attendance issues
- To identify the causes of non-attendance and act upon them using the first day absence telephone calls whenever possible and follow up by subsequent phone calls or letters to parents/guardians
- To monitor and reduce absence through holidays in term time
- To ensure all staff understand their roles in the monitoring and recording of attendance.
- To maintain and improve attendance throughout the school by rewarding and target setting where necessary
- To monitor and evaluate the processes on a regular basis
- To give clear information on expected levels of attendance
Regular and punctual attendance is of paramount importance in ensuring that all children have full access to the curriculum. Valuable learning time is lost when children are absent or late. Children should arrive at school on time every day the school is open, unless the reason for the absence is unavoidable. Permitting absence from school without a good reason is an offence by the parent.
Your child may be at risk of harm if they do not attend school regularly. Safeguarding the interests of each child is everyone’s responsibility and within the context of this school, promoting the welfare and life opportunities for your child encompasses:-
- Behaviour Management
- Health and Safety
- Access to the Curriculum
- Anti- bullying
Failing to attend school on a regular basis will be considered as a safeguarding matter.
Under Section 7 of the Education Act 1996, parents are responsible for making sure that their children of compulsory school age receive full-time education. Parents have a legal responsibility to ensure their child’s regular attendance at the school where they are registered.
If a child of compulsory school age who is registered at a school fails to attend regularly at the school then the parent is guilty of an offence under Section 444(1) of the Education Act 1996.
Since March 2001 there has been a further offence (Education Act 1996, section 444(1A) as amended by the Criminal Justice and Court Service Act 2000) where a parent, knowing that their child is failing to attend regularly at school, fails without reasonable justification to cause him/her to attend.
Every half-day absence has to be classified by the school, (not by the parents / carers), as either Authorised or Unauthorised. This is why information about the cause of each absence is always required, preferably in writing.
Authorised absences are mornings or afternoons away from school for a reason such as genuine illness or other unavoidable situations.
Unauthorised absences are those which the school does not consider reasonable and for which ‘no leave’ has been given. This includes:
- Parents keeping children off school unnecessarily
- Absences which are not properly explained
- Lateness (arriving after the registers have been taken)
The school opens its doors to children at 8.45 and all children are expected to be in school by 9.00am. As soon as children arrive in the classroom, staff engage them in learning activities and the first session from 9.00am until 9.20am is an important time when children work on their individual targets and socialise with their peers. The register is officially closed at 9.30 am.
If a child needs to be absent from school due to illness, the parent or carer should phone or email the school office between 8.30am and 9.00am and leave a message giving the reason for absence and the expected day of return. If a pupil is absent and no message has been received, the school office will phone or text the parent/carer by 10am to find out why the child is not in school. If the reason for these absences remains unspecified they will be classed as unauthorised. Office and classroom staff have the responsibility for these communications and for recording and passing on information. If there are concerns, a record detailing the conversation is made.
If a pupil arrives after 9.30am, they must be signed in at the school office to ensure that they are registered and to make sure we know they are here in case of an emergency. Similarly, if a pupil needs to leave school for an appointment during school hours, they must be signed out at the school office and signed in again when they return.
All pupils return to class at the end of the lunch period (1:30pm) where registration is taken by the class teacher. Registers are then returned to the office for monitoring by office staff. Afternoon Register is closed at 1:45 p.m.
If pupils are absent parents / carers must:
- Contact the school as soon possible on the first day of absence. Parents / Carers should also inform the taxi/minibus company that transports their child (if applicable).
- Send a note in on the first day they return with an explanation of the absence – even if a telephone conversation has taken place
- For an absence for illness of three days or longer, or more than one absence for illness within any two-week period, the parent / carer must provide a medical certificate from the pupil’s doctor or other medical professional certifying that the pupil’s absence is due to illness. At the school’s discretion parents /cares of children with complex medical needs may be permitted to certify the reason for the child’s absence for known medical conditions themselves.
The school will:
- Telephone parents / carers on the first day of absence if no message has been received in school
- Work with parents in resolving any issues together.
If a pupil’s absence is moving to below 90% without a satisfactory explanation, then the school (Through the Family Team and protocol mentioned below) will work with parents / carers to decide on the best course of action to take with individual pupils in a particular case. This may involve:
- arranged meetings between parents, pupils, school staff and health professionals to decide on the appropriate strategy
- home visits
- alternative transport arrangements temporarily being put in place
- referral to outside agencies for support
- agreeing and arranging alternative or reduced Curriculum provision as may be temporarily required.
The people responsible for attendance matters in this school are: David Reid, James Harvey, Jan Smith, Rebecca Bevan
The Head Teacher (David Reid) will also:
- Take the lead in ensuring attendance has a high profile in the school
- Ensure there are designated staff with responsibility for attendance matters
- Take overall responsibility for ensuring the school conforms to all statutory requirements in respect of attendance
All staff will:
- Provide a welcoming atmosphere for children and provide a safe learning environment
- Ensure an appropriate and responsive curriculum
- Provide a sympathetic response to any pupil’s concerns
- To be aware of contributory factors to non-attendance
Parents / Carers who will:
- Ensure pupils attend school regularly and punctually
- Avoid holidays during term time
- Keep school informed of absences
- Participate and co-operate in support and interventions offered by school and other agencies
Lateness is monitored by the school and where there is a persistent problem, the Headteacher will take appropriate action. This may involve contacting the appropriate authority outside the school.
Under normal circumstances, the only reason children should miss school is if they are too ill to attend or have unavoidable medical appointments. If this should happen and a child is away from school due to sickness, parents / carers are requested to contact the school by phone or to send a message informing the school of the situation. In the case of frequent illnesses or a longer illness, a medical certificate may be requested.
Sometimes children are taken ill at school, in this instance a phone call will be made to the parent/carer informing them that their child is ill and will be sent home and transport will be arranged to take them home.
Children are expected to be able to access all parts of the school day, including swimming, playtimes, indoor and outdoor learning and physical education, If children are not well enough to take part in these activities then they must not return to school until able to do so.
Due to the nature of the pupils and students at Manor Green Primary School, many have complex physical and medical needs. In many cases this necessitates them travelling to off-site medical appointments. In a minority of cases these appointments can be lengthy, frequent and/or at distance. Wherever possible the School attempts to arrange on-site clinics to reduce possible absence. However, the School also acknowledges that medical appointments are inevitable for our pupil/student population and will code any such absence as “Authorised”.
Days of religious observance will be authorised.
The law recognises the special position of Traveller families. Travellers move around as part of their trade or business and the children usually travel with them. When travellers’ children are unable to attend school because they are travelling, the absence should be marked “authorised” using Attendance code T. However, they should be encouraged to access education whilst they are travelling and attend educational provision through registration at another school
The Setting Report provided for a child’s EHCP includes details of their attendance for the preceding three terms. Any attendance issues arising from this data will be raised as part of the Annual Review meeting.
Monitoring and review
It is the responsibility of the Governors to monitor overall attendance, and attendance figures for the school are disclosed to all at Governors meetings. The Governing Body also has the responsibility for this policy, and for seeing that it is carried out. The Governors will therefore examine closely the information provided to them, and seek to ensure that our attendance figures are as high as they should be. The Head teacher along with the Governors sets annual targets for authorised and unauthorised absences.
If a child has an unexplained absence a letter will be sent home to ask for clarification. If a period of week elapses the absence will become unauthorised and further clarification will be asked for.
Where a child is seen to have frequent absences a letter will be sent from a senior member of staff to highlight the problem and explain how the situation is being monitored. Support will be offered to ensure pupils attend regularly. Child who are absent with frequent medical issues will be investigated by the school nurse. If absences continue the parents will be informed that the Educational Attendance Officer will become involved.
Meetings with parents
Where there is an emerging pattern to a pupil’s / student’s absence over a 3 to 4 week period (or sooner if staff are particularly concerned), with or without explanation, the school will invite parents to a meeting to discuss the reasons for the absences. Plans should be put in place with the parents and pupil / student to resolve any difficulties and improve the attendance within a specified time limit – usually no more than 6 weeks. It will be explained to parents that any future absences will be unauthorised unless there is clear evidence of a good reason for them.
The Family Team
Attendance is always reviewed as part of the Annual Review of the statement meeting. And we also review each child’s attendance termly. Schools are expected to achieve an overall rate of 95% attendance, therefore everything will be done to try and help each pupil achieve at least this attendance level. Attendance is monitored by our Family Team in conjunction with the school office staff. Data for pupils whose overall attendance has dropped below 90% is then analysed two weeks before the end of each term by the Family Team. Attendance cause for concern sheets are completed for these pupils and support is offered to families to improve the attendance of the child in question. Attendance for these pupils is monitored throughout the following term and impact is assessed
If there are any concerns about low attendance, we look at the reasons and our Family Team can meet with parents if necessary to support the family working in line with the West Sussex Early Help and Think Family guidance. Sometimes attendance is poor due to challenging behaviour at home, refusal to come to school or medical conditions such as epilepsy. We can help support families to overcome these issues and create a plan to improve attendance. Some of our pupils have a shorter day because of their needs but this would only ever be as part of a plan, with the aim of gradually increasing to full attendance.
Children are sometimes reluctant to attend school. Any problems with regular attendance are best sorted out between the school, the parents and the pupil. If a pupil is reluctant to attend, it is never better to cover up their absence or to give in to pressure to excuse them from attending. This gives the impression that attendance does not matter and may make things worse.
If the attendance does not improve, the school may make a referral to the Educational Welfare service.
Holidays in term time
Parents are strongly encouraged not to arrange holidays in term time. Parents are advised that they have no legal right to take children out of school for trips or holidays, but must apply for the Headteacher’s permission by completing a Leave of Absence Form from the School office.
Guidance from the Department of Education (November 2013) states that
“Head teachers should not grant leave of absence unless in exceptional circumstances. The application must be made in advance and the head teacher must be satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances which warrant the leave. Where a leave of absence is granted, the head teacher will determine the number of days a pupil can be away from school. A leave of absence is granted entirely at the head teacher’s discretion.”
* The Headteacher has the legal authority to grant leave of absence for a child to go away on holiday (The Education (Pupil Registration) regulations 1995). The Headteacher will take each request on a case by case basis.
LEAVE OF ABSENCE DURING TERM TIME
Crawley Schools’ Leave of Absence Policy
Parents must state why they consider it essential for them to take their child out of school as absence from learning has been proven adversely to affect children’s academic progress.
Schools cannot authorise absence except in unavoidable and exceptional circumstances.
Genuine illness will be authorised, although the school reserves the right to ask for confirmation from a medical professional if a child’s absences are above the amount expected for a usually healthy child. Unacceptable reasons for absence will be classed as unauthorised. Regardless of whether the absence is authorised or unauthorised, if after ten days the pupil fails to return and no contact can be made with the parents/carers, the school will make a referral to Pupil Entitlement: Investigation (PEI), which will make reasonable enquiries and consult with the Child Missing Education Team (CME). If the school can make contact with the parents/carers, it will warn them, if possible in writing, that it will consider taking the pupil off roll if s/he does not return by an agreed date. If the pupil does not return within 20 days and no reasonable explanation is given, the school will consult with CME and, in line with DfE guidance, consider taking the pupil off roll. If taken off roll, parents/carers would need to reapply for a place through West Sussex County Council Admissions (North) on their return. A place cannot be guaranteed at the current school.
There is no legal entitlement to holidays during term time and this should be avoided if at all possible. It will automatically be classed as unauthorised absence. Parents/carers should be aware that Crawley Schools will follow the WSCC guidelines on issuing FPN and unauthorised absence, i.e. issue a Fixed Penalty Notice (FPN) if a child accrues 10 or more unauthorised absences in a 10-week period (each half day counts as one absence),
- by non-attendance at school
- by arriving persistently late at school (after registration has closed)
- by parents/carers taking their child on an unauthorised holiday during the school term.
Fixed Penalty Notice
The FPN is an alternative to prosecution and gives parents/carers an opportunity to discharge their criminal liability by paying a fine of £120, which must be paid within 28 days. If paid within 21 days, the fine is reduced to £60. After 28 days, the Pupil Entitlement: Investigation (PEI) will consider prosecuting for the original non-attendance, not for the non-payment of the FPN. Further information follows and can also be found on GOV.UK.
The following is information from the government on penalty notices:
Penalty Notices: Advice to Parents and Carers: Section 23 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act gives powers to Local Authorities and other designated bodies to issue Penalty Notices where a parent/carer is considered capable of but unwilling to secure an improvement in their child’s school attendance. The powers came into force on 7 February 2004.
Why has it been introduced?
- Reducing absence from school is a key priority nationally and locally because missing school damages a pupil’s attainment levels, disrupts school routines and the learning of others and can leave a pupil vulnerable to anti-social behaviour and juvenile crime as well teenage pregnancy. Above all, missing school seriously affects children’s longer term life opportunities.
What is a Penalty Notice?
- Under existing legislation, parents/carers commit an offence if a child fails to attend regularly and the absences are classed as unauthorized (those for which the school cannot or has not given permission). Depending on circumstances such cases may result in prosecution under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996. A Penalty Notice is an alternative to prosecution, which does not require an appearance in court whilst still securing an improvement in a pupil’s attendance.
What are the costs?
- Payment within 28 days of receipt of a notice is £50 and £100 if paid after this but within 42 days.
How are they issued?
- By first class post to your home.
When are they used?
- West Sussex County Council considers that regular attendance at school is of such importance that Penalty Notices may be used in a range of situations where unauthorised absences occur. These may include:
- Inappropriate parentally-condoned absences
- Excessive holidays in term time or delayed return from an holiday without prior school permission.
- In every case a pupil will have a minimum of 10 school sessions (ie 5 school days) lost to unauthorised absence during the current term before a Penalty Notice is considered.
The Authority never takes such action lightly and would far rather work with parents/carers to improve attendance without having to resort to any enforcement actions. Attendance is of such importance to all of us that the Authority will use the powers if this is the only way of securing a child’s attendance.
Is a warning given?
- Yes, you will receive a written warning of the possibility of a Notice being issued, which will tell you the extent of your child’s absences and give you 15 school days in which to effect an improvement. In that time your child must have no unauthorized absences from school. There is no limit to the number of times a formal warning of possible Penalty Notice issue may be made in each particular case. Each case is dealt with individually.
Is there an appeals process?
- No, there is no statutory right of appeal once a notice has been issued but on receipt of a warning you can make representation should you wish.
How do I pay?
- Details of payment arrangements will be included on the Penalty Notice. You need to be aware that payment in part or by instalment is not an option with Penalty Notices.
What happens if I do not pay?
- You have up to 42 days from receipt to pay the Penalty Notice in full, after which the Authority is required under the Act to commence proceedings in the Magistrates court for the original offence of poor attendance by your child. If proven, this can attract a range of fines up to £2,500 and/or a range of disposals such as Parenting Orders or Community Sentences depending upon circumstances.
Can I be prosecuted if I pay the Penalty Notice but my child is still missing school?
- Not for the period included in the Penalty Notice – payment discharges your liability in this respect. However it may be the case that a prosecution might be considered for further periods of poor attendance not covered by the Notice, depending upon the circumstances. If this is an issue, it is vital that you work closely with your child’s school and support agencies such as Education Welfare.
Can I get help if my child is not attending regularly?
- Yes, the Local Authority and your child’s school will give you advice and support if you need help to secure improvement in your child’s attendance. It is very important that you speak with the school or with Education Welfare at the earliest opportunity if you have any worries at all about securing your child’s attendance. The contact number is: 01444 4461009
Does the school get the money from the penalty notices and fines?
- No, the fine and fixed penalty notice are nothing to do with the school. The payment goes directly to the Government.