I’ve lost count of the number of times I have heard the phrase “it’s only guidance” over the last twenty years!
The recently published DfE guidance on school attendance (September 2018) and the recently publicised case of a Headteacher being suspended whilst coding irregularities are investigated brings this phrase into sharp focus.
My reply has always been to point out that whilst only guidance you would have to have a really good and justifiable reason to explain why you hadn’t used the codes available or had chosen to use one code over another.
The 2018 guidance gives clearer definitions to each code and brings a greater emphasis on safeguarding of students. It also ensures that schools are compliant with Pupil Registration Regulations.
School staff therefore need to consider which members of staff are involved in coding absence; whether they are aware of the pupil regulations; how much training they have been given and whether codes are being consistently and more importantly correctly applied.
Headteachers are also responsible for either auditing attendance themselves or delegating this responsibility to a member of staff to ensure coding is accurate and consistent. This member of staff must also know and be able to apply the regulations and guidance to your school. All schools should also consider having a named Governor for attendance who is aware of your processes and procedures and how codes are applied. This Governor may be involved in a safeguarding role and could broaden this field to take into account attendance too.
If you are unsure of what to code on a register I would always advise seeking advice, training and support from a specialist in Education Welfare. At Peninsula we can support you with anything from an attendance health check to training of staff on regulations and coding.