Department for Education Press Release – what does it mean for schools?

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Attendance drive steps up as new term starts for millions of pupils – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Following a recent press release from the Department of Education, school are being directed to work alongside councils to deliver individual and specific support to families who are experiencing barriers to attending school.

Laid out in the Schools White Paper is new best practice guidance for schools, trusts and local authorities on improving attendance. The focus is on how schools should provide tailored support to those that need it, through referrals to external organizations and services, and to issue fines and other sanctions when absence is consistently unauthorized.  

The advice comes as part of a new set of measures, designed to ensure that more children are in school daily.

The package also focuses on making data visualization tools available to schools, academy trusts, local authorities and the government, which the Department of Education believes will allow professionals to identify and respond to any issues more effectively.

According to the Department of Education, the ‘data is supporting the launch of the new, interactive national attendance dashboard alongside the publication of the first fortnightly attendance data of the term’. It will be available later in September, and help to identify patterns and trends through daily, weekly and termly analysis of absenteeism.  

However, the DfE’s focus on ‘regular data sharing’ has been met with some concern and opposition, with Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE saying that school attendance needs to be human, not tech led. She also explains that the Digital Future Commission has made findings suggesting that such data may follow a child through life, despite previous obstacles being overcome. In addition, professionals have expressed apprehensions with the privacy and protection of student’s data, if it is being shared amongst multiple organizations and individuals.  

The Department of Education is also launching a three year 1-2-1 attendance monitoring pilot, from this year. It is starting in Middleborough, where it will provide tailored support to more than 1,600 persistently and severely absent pupils over the 3 year period, before expanding to other areas of the country by next year. The pilot will focuses on addressing the issues behind non-attendance, such as mental health or bullying, with a predominant focus on maximizing pupil’s time in the classroom.  

Education Secretary, James Cleverly said: ‘All the evidence shows that being in school is vital for helping pupils achieve their potential. That is why it is so important for them to attend everyday they possibly can’.  

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