Although being in school is recognised as being crucial to pupils’ attainment and wider life chances, there is considerable variation in attendance support from schools and local authorities across England.
This creates somewhat of a ‘postcode lottery’ in terms of the level of support which will be provided where a child is not attending school. The government therefore wants to improve pupil attendance rates by creating a more consistent regime of support.
The impact of Covid-19- on school attendance has been widely acknowledged, and although children have generally returned to school, there are longer-term issues which need to be tackled.
Four key changes are proposed to address problems of school attendance:
- General duties on local authorities, requiring them to use their existing powers to promote regular attendance and comply with the new attendance guidance issued by the Secretary of State
- All schools in England will be required to publish and implement a school attendance policy, which must include the responsibilities of members of staff, and clear attendance expectations for pupils and parents
- Regulations will set out the circumstances in which fixed penalty notices for absence must be considered. The new national regulations will create much needed clarity and consistency
- Academies will be subject to the regulations in respect of granting leaves of absence, which currently apply to maintained schools. This means that leave of absence can only be granted in an academy where there are exceptional circumstances.
Impact on schools
Schools must ensure that they review and implement an attendance policy that will reflect the new rules to be introduced on granting leaves of absence. These changes in respect of school attendance are anticipated to take effect from 1 September 2023.
Academies should therefore be taking proactive steps to put in place a clear and robust attendance policy, clearly setting out the requirements which are placed on pupils, parents and staff to combat poor attendance. In addition, academies should be ready to understand and comply with the new attendance guidance which will provide detail on how to complete the attendance and admissions register.