I began my role as an Education Welfare Officer at Peninsula Education in November 2019. Starting a new job in the midst of a pandemic certainly threw up a few challenges (and definitely put everyone’s IT literacy to the test), but I couldn’t be happier in my current position.
When I tell people that I’m an Education Welfare Officer, or EWO for short, they often ask what that means I do! My main goal as a EWO, and of Peninsula Education, is to break down barriers that are preventing children and young people from attending school regularly and punctually. Did you know that arriving just 15 minutes late daily, means that a student would lose 10 days over the course of an academic year? Or that an attendance percentage of 90% means that a student has lost 9 days of learning, which is the equivalent of 54 missed lessons? Working towards a meaningful and tangible goal – to improve attendance – with other educational professionals, motivates me hugely in my day to day tasks.
Attending school isn’t just important for academic success though, it’s essential for children and young people’s social development, and ability to make and maintain friendships. If children are content, settled and confident when attending school, they have the opportunity to fulfil their potential in all areas, and strive for a high-level of academia, in addition to improving their social and emotional well-being.
If I had to describe the role of EWO in three words, it would be: varied, challenging and meaningful. It is a role which requires you to have strong interpersonal skills, to always be empathetic and non-judgemental, to sometimes be assertive, to be organised with your record-keeping, and of course, it helps to have a sense of humour!
Day to day I work with a number of primary schools across Cornwall, alongside head teachers, class teachers, parent support advisors, family support workers and medical professionals (just to name a few)! We collaboratively identify students who have attendance concerns, and work with parents to find ways to overcome barriers that may be preventing regular attendance. Of course, safeguarding is at the heart of what we do, so we often liaise with other agencies such as CAMHs or social care, to support the family and students further. I think it’s really important to remember the ‘welfare’ part of the EWO role, so I try to keep this in mind at all times – regular and open communication is essential here.
I have learnt a lot in the past year or so – about the legislation around attendance, the school’s attendance processes, and of course – attendance coding! Learning new things is one of the things that I enjoy most about the role, and I look forward to continuing to increase my knowledge about all things attendance related.
I hope that I have given a clearer insight into the role of an Education Welfare Officer, as it’s an important role which I think often isn’t clearly understood. After all, in the wise words of Woody Allen, ‘80% of success is showing up’!