What’s Going Around or, The Studybugs Blog Blog Home | Studybugs Home | @TeamStudybugs

Improving Attendance: Quick Summary of the Expectations of Schools

The DfE has released an updated version of the Working Together to Improve School Attendance guidance that will take effect from 19 August 2024. There are some significant changes to this hefty document, so below we’ve outlined the key takeaways of what’s expected of schools to make it easier and quicker to understand.

Build strong relationships and work jointly with families to understand and remove barriers to attendance

As we know, building productive, trusting relationships with pupils and parents is central to achieving good attendance. The updated guidance emphasises the expectation that schools challenge misconceptions about what good attendance looks like (ie 90% might be good in a test, but isn’t good attendance).

In addition, schools are asked to work closely with families to address barriers to school attendance, engaging relevant partners when problems are out of a school’s control.

Develop and maintain a whole school culture that promotes the benefits of high attendance

Closely related to the point above is developing a culture of good attendance. This means recognising that good attendance doesn’t happen in isolation, but needs to be a central part of the school’s ethos.

This can be drawing the link between attendance and attainment, but also recognising that absence can be a symptom of other issues at home or at school, like bullying, social difficulties, safeguarding issues or neglect.

What’s critical to achieving this is making sure all staff know their roles and not just leaving it to one or two people to manage attendance. Using appropriate resources (eg pupil premium funding) to improve attendance is also important. Using this earmarked funding for something like Studybugs ensures it’s being put to good use.

Have a clear school attendance policy which all staff, pupils and parents understand

This is one that schools will almost definitely have in place anyway. But just to reiterate, this policy will clearly outline to all staff, pupils and parents the expectations of them and what the school is doing to encourage good attendance, including:

  • Start and finish times for the school day
  • Register closing times
  • Absence reporting procedure and how the school follows up on unexplained absences
  • The policy for requesting and granting leaves of absence (eg interviews, performances)
  • Name and contact details of your Senior Attendance Champion
  • Contact details for day-to-day attendance conversations (eg office, form tutor)
  • Details for more in-depth conversations about attendance (eg head of year or key stage)
  • How the school is promoting good attendance
  • The school’s strategy for targeting attendance improvement efforts for those who need it most
  • The school’s strategy for reducing persistent and severe absence, including access to wider support services
  • Details of the National Framework for Penalty Notices

Accurately complete admission and attendance registers and follow up absence daily

The law requires all schools to keep accurate, electronic admissions and attendance registers. There are also new attendance codes that schools are expected to use (see our handy, printable guide to the new codes and their uses).

Having robust processes for following up on absences and poor punctuality is essential. For example, Studybugs parent alerts automatically chase absences each day.

Spotting patterns and intervening early is an effective way to stop pupils from sliding into poor attendance habits. Schools are asked to make efforts to put this in terms families can understand (time missed, impact on learning, etc.).

Schools are also expected to regularly update parents with their children’s attendance, paying particular attention to those at risk of becoming persistently absent. If pupils do become persistently absent, plans need to be put in place to improve their attendance.

Regularly monitor and analyse attendance and absence data to identify pupils or cohorts that require support and put effective strategies in place

To stop poor attendance becoming a habit, schools should place a particular emphasis on prevention and early intervention. This includes monitoring and analysing weekly attendance patterns and trends for individuals, year groups and cohorts. This information should be shared with relevant tutors, heads of year/key stage and not just be the responsibility of your Attendance Officer or any one staff member.

You’re also expected to thoroughly analyse half-termly, termly and yearly data, looking at uses of certain codes and days of poor attendance. This will allow you to measure the impact of school-wide policies and identify individuals who need more support. Studybugs Assistant can give you the information you need here. Try typing “show me a breakdown of absences for the year to date” or another timeframe.

Share information and work collaboratively with others where a pupil’s absence is at risk of becoming persistent or severe

Sometimes, removing barriers to attendance requires working with other parties. This could be a feeder school, the local authority or other local partners like the police or health services if appropriate.

To aid this, schools are asked to share with their local authority new pupil and deletion returns, attendance returns, and sickness returns (children who miss or will likely miss 15 days because of sickness). The local authority will make it clear how frequently they expect returns. Schools are also asked to provide information on request to the Secretary of State.

Where pupils have a social worker and/or youth offending team worker, they should be notified if the pupil has unexplained absences from school.

Be particularly mindful of pupils absent from school due to mental or physical ill health or SEND, and provide them with additional support

It’s common for children to feel anxious about attending school, such as in cases of EBSA. In these cases, schools are expected to work with parents to encourage the child to attend school and address barriers to attendance.

For more complex barriers to attendance, such as long term mental or physical conditions and/or SEND, additional support may need to be provided to understand their individual needs, facilitate pastoral support and work with the family and other agencies to ensure attendance. The sooner the right parties are aware, the sooner support can be provided.

That was still pretty long, huh!

Even as a whistle-stop tour, I appreciate this has been quite a lengthy blog post! The good news is that Studybugs can provide a lot of what you need to meet each of these expectations through tailored staff and parent alerts, live reporting and parental engagement tools. If you don’t already use Studybugs and would like to learn more, please .

— Lucas Abbott

Posted 22 May 2024 Share