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 notification of this to ensure that they can take proactive action to improve attendance.
If parents are finding it difficult to meet their duty to ensure their child attends school regularly, they should arrange to discuss this with the school at the earliest opportunity.
Our full attendance policy is available here, but there are key points that many parents will be looking for information on:
Can I take my child out of school in term time?
Children should only be absent from school in term time due to an ‘exceptional circumstance. These include illness, unavoidable medical or dental appointments, and a limited number of other personal events. You should submit a request for term-time absence at least 14 days prior to such absences, unless they result from a sudden change in circumstances.
Children cannot be taken out of school for term-time holidays, travel to events or other non-exceptional reasons. Parents who take pupils out of school for non-exceptional, unauthorised reasons should expect to be issued with a fixed penalty fine. See section 5 of the attendance policy.
Which absences are classed as 'unauthorised absence'?
Simply, children are expected to be in school when it is open, unless they are too ill to attend or there is another authorised reason for them not to attend.
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'.
If the school is open and your child is not here, and there is not an acknowledged and authorised reason for them not to be, the absence will be classed as unauthorised. Unauthorised absences can lead to fixed-penalty fines of £60 per parent, per child being issued.
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.
What do I need to do if my child is ill?
The school should be notified of illness by 9.00am on the first day that a child is absent. You should summarise the reason for the absence, and when you expect your child to return to school.
You should update the school on recovery on each day that your 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.
If the school is not satisfied that the reported illness is genuine, it can ask for further/medical evidence to support the report. If still not satisfied, the absence will be recorded as unauthorised.
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 a SMS telling me what my child’s current attendance is?
This is part of our approach to ensuring that parents are adequately informed about their child’s attendance and given advance notice of any concerns.
We are required to discuss children’s attendance on a regular basis, both internally and with the local authority attendance support team. This discussion will focus on pupils who are, or are at risk of becoming, persistent or severely absent.
Any pupils with attendance that is below or approaching 95% will be flagged as potentially vulnerable to persistent or severe absence. Where a risk of persistent absenteeism is identified, parents will be invited to discuss any specific barriers to attendance and, where appropriate, directed to support via the local authority. See section 7
Importantly, ALL absences count towards the overall figures; even if absences were authorised (illness or exceptional) they will contribute towards any risk assessment.
What time does my child have to be at school?
- The school doors are opened to pupils at 8:45 am
- Children not attending breakfast club* should arrive between 8:45 and 8:55 am.
- Our school day starts at 8:55, with registration. Learning activities and individual interventions begin immediately, usually running alongside the register being taken.
- The register remains open until 9:10am.
Children arriving after 8:55 but before 9:10 are marked ‘Late – whilst registers open’
Children arriving after 9:10 will be marked ‘U – Late after registers have closed.’ – note: this is legally categorised as an unauthorised absence and will contribute to overall absence percentages.
Regular lateness may result in the issuing of a fixed-penalty fine. See section 4.
*Breakfast club runs from 8:00 to 8:45am. Any pupils arriving unsupervised before 8:45am will be placed in breakfast club and parents will be charged the relevant wraparound care fee.
Does my reception child have to attend every day?
Whilst attendance at school is only statutory from the point at which a child reaches five years old, when children join reception, it is assumed that this will be a full-time placement and your child will be expected in school every day.
Reception children follow a curriculum programme that relies on them being present and regularly missing phonics, reading, writing and maths lessons can place them at a disadvantage.
It is important to use the reception year to teach children good habits regarding attendance and punctuality.
How can I monitor/find out my child’s attendance?
Our school data system, Scholarpack, offers a parent app – ‘Scholarpack Parent App’. This can be downloaded from the apple and android app stores. The office will issue a login code on request, linked to your mobile phone number. If you change your phone you will need a new login code.
The app allows you to see live attendance data as well as offering two-way app messaging, links to useful websites and the ability to update contact and medical details.