Fir Ends is a school with very positive attendance standards. The majority of our children enjoy coming to school and academic progress is good as a result. Despite this, we are aware that we can't simply assume that attendance will continue to be good and our attendance policy reflects a desire to take a pro-active approach to ensure we maintain this and meet with national guidance and expectations.
Statutory frameworks state that the school must do all it can to discourage absences during term-time and to tackle 'persistent absenteeism'. The Department for Education sets a baseline figure as a national indicator of persistent absenteeism which, this year, is 90% of sessions. This equates to a total of just 19 missed days across an entire year.
A figure of 95% is used as a baseline within the county when deciding whether to issue fines for non-attendance.
As a result, we undertake regular (typically termly) risk assessments of current attendance throughout the school and where there is a risk of, or attendance has already fallen below 95% parents will receive a 'Risk Assessment Letter', an example of which can be seen using the link at the bottom of the page.
Our full attendance policy is available below, but there are key points that many parents will be looking for information on:
Can I take my children on holiday in term time?
The school has no authorisation from the Department of Education to sanction term time holidays. Absences for 'exceptional circumstances' can be sanctioned, but these should be 'short, rare and unavoidable' and do not ordinarily include holidays. As a result it is highly unlikely that authorisation for holiday absences will be possible.
How do I apply for an absence due to exceptional circumstances?
First of all, look at the application form and verify if your request will meet the description of 'exceptional'. Send the form to school, at which point attendance and educational progress will be checked. If satisfied that the circumstances are 'exceptional' and other parameters described in the attendance policy have been met, the headteacher may be able to authorise the absence. You may be contacted to provide further evidence in support of your request.
Which absences are classed as 'unauthorised absence'?
Effectively, if the school is open and your child is not here, and there is not an acknowledged reason for them not to be, the absence will be classed as unauthorised. Authorised circumstances include illness, a previously discussed 'exceptional circumstance', closure of the school, or attendance at religious observances that are an 'essential part of the parental faith'.
What do I need to do if my child is ill?
The school should be notified of illness by 09:30 on each day that a child is absent. Absences of 3-5 days may require a self-certification form to be completed, whilst absences of 5 days or more may require a formal doctor's note. If attendance is below 95% and a pattern of short illnesses is observed, medical notes may be requested for all future absences.
Can I take my children to the doctor/dentist during the school day?
Any absence disrupts learning - pupils will invariably miss something that will be referred to in later learning. As a result, non-essential or routine medical appointments should be booked for times outside the school day. Where this is unavoidable, children should be picked up at a time which reflects travel to the appointment (e.g. Brampton is around 8-10 minutes away) and returned to school immediately after the appointment.
Some medical appointments for recurring or long-term issues may be classed as 'exceptional circumstances', and an absence should be applied for on these grounds.
Why have I received an Attendance Risk Assessment letter?
The school is required to meet stringent frameworks on attendance. Within these, attendance below 90% is seen as an indicator of 'persistent absenteeism'. Within the county, a figure of 95% or less in the preceding 12-weeks is used as one factor in decisions on issuing fines for non-attendance to parents.
To ensure that parents are aware of the risk of falling into these categories, we run a regular, termly report which identifies children close to, or below 95% attendance. The letter is to inform parents of pupil's current attendance so that they can take appropriate steps to improve it, where appropriate.
Importantly, ALL absences count towards the overall figures; even if absences were authorised (illness or exceptional) they will contribute towards any risk assessment.