Attendance

Advice for Parents and Carers

What can you do?

Parents and carers can do a great deal to support the regular and punctual attendance of their children at school:

  • Start good habits early (arrive at school on time and keep to school rules);
  • Inform the school on the first day and subsequent days of any illness or absence;
  • Always send in notes to explain an absence including medical evidence for prolonged sickness absence;
  • Make it known that you don’t approve of poor attendance, lateness or truancy/
  • ensure that your children only miss school for authorised reasons such as illness or days specifically set aside for religious observance;
  • Avoid booking family holidays during term-time whenever possible;
  • Attend parents' evenings and other school events;
  • Read all letters that your children bring home from school;
  • Talk to the school or Education Welfare Service about any problems or difficulties you may be experiencing;
  • Praise your child’s efforts;
  • Support school in encouraging good behaviour;
  • Take an interest in your child’s school work and homework.

Remember: a school day lost can never be retrieved, so regular attendance really does matter.

3 days missed in a half-term means less than 91% attendance.

An Attendance of below 80% means your child is missing on average one day per week.

If your child has 80% attendance for their whole secondary school career they will have missed a whole year of schooling by the time they leave school.

Did you know….?

The Education Welfare Service (EWS) can assist and support parents and carers by:

  • attending meetings at school to help solve problems causing children's poor attendance at school;
  • contacting other agencies offering specialist support and help to improve attendance;
  • offering advice to parents on their legal obligation to ensure their children attend regularly and punctually;
  • The EWS also run initiatives in schools to try and improve attendance. These can consist of:-Lateness monitoring, post registration truancy checks, truancy patrols, parent/pupil interviews, assembly talks etc.

 

Referral to the Education Welfare Service

When would a pupil be referred?

Schools refer pupils to the Education Welfare Service if:

  • their attendance falls to 85% or below;
  • there are erratic attendance patterns or regular absence patterns, including lateness;
  • they have concerns about the child’s welfare.

They make their referral to the Education Welfare Service, via a referral form with an individual attendance print out. Officers visit the school on a regular basis to discuss cases prior to this formal referral.

The work of the Education Inclusion Officer (EIO) will be tailored to the individual’s needs and may include several of the following strategies:

  • letters to the family;
  • home visits;
  • support re-integration programme;
  • parent’s / pupil’s invited to attend a meeting to discuss issues with the EIO and Head’s of Years / Headteachers;
  • referral to other agencies, including Children’s Services, Educational Psychology Service, Counsellors, Behaviour Support Team etc.

The aim of the Education Welfare Service is to support young people in receiving the education they are entitled to.

If you would like any further information about the referral process or would like to speak to an Education Welfare Officer for your child’s school you can contact the school directly, or alternatively please contact the Education Welfare Service on 01685 724681 or educationwelfare@merthyr.gov.uk

 

Prosecution for Non Attendance

Parents and carers have a legal responsibility to ensure that their children of compulsory school age receive full-time education. Parents usually choose to fulfil this responsibility by registering their children at a school; however some parents decide to educate their children at home. (Elective Home Education)

If your child fails to attend regularly at their registered school then the parent is guilty of an offence under Section 444 of the Education Act 1996.

In Merthyr Tydfil, the decision to prosecute parents for their child’s non-attendance is a very serious one and is made on an individual case basis after considering a number of factors. These include:

  • the actual attendance level;
  • the attendance history of the child;
  • reasons for absence;
  • family circumstances;
  • work undertaken with the family, including how co-operative parents have been and how effective this work has been;
  • whether a prosecution would resolve the attendance problem.

Once a decision is made that a prosecution may be considered a warning letter is issued to the parents/carers of the child advising them of the intention to start court proceedings if an improvement in attendance is not made. This is called the 'A' notice.

After the 'A' notice has been issued, the Education Welfare Service will closely monitor the attendance of your child. If there is no significant improvement in attendance, then a second and final warning letter will be issued. This is called the 'B' notice.

Once the 'B' notice has been issued, unless attendance improves significantly, the case will be referred to the Magistrate’s court, and where necessary a Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) interview may be held.

If a parent is found guilty, they could be fined up to a maximum of £2,500, or imprisonment up to a maximum of 3 months, or both.

Alternatively from January 2015 Local Authorities, at the request of Headteachers, have the option to utilise Fixed Penalty Notices (FP's) in respect of unauthorised absences and lateness. These FPNs are an alternative to a prosecution through the Magistrate's Court, and result in a parent/carer being find £120 (reduced to £60 if paid within 28 days). For further information, please refer to the Code of Conduct for FPNs below.

If you would like any advice or support in relation to prosecutions for non-attendance, please contact the education welfare service on 01685 724681 or educationwelfare@merthyr.gov.uk.

 

Holidays Taken During Term Time

There are many experiences outside school that children can learn from that will enrich their lives. However, learners are only in school for a limited amount of time and we must ensure that we can make the most of this time for the child. If you do decide that you must book a holiday during term-time, please take into consideration that if your child misses school he/she can fall behind with their work and do less well in exams.

Research suggests that there is a strong link between a child’s regular attendance at school and how well they perform in exams.

Frequently asked questions which will help to inform your decision and what could happen if you take your child out of school during term time for a holiday are listed below.

  1. Does school have the authority to allow term time absence for holidays? YES. However, parents do not have an automatic right to withdraw pupils from school for a holiday and you must apply for permission in advance. Schools have a discretionary power to authorise up to 10 days absence during a school year for family holidays during term time if this is felt necessary.
  2. Why is this decision made by the school? Headteachers have access to all of the necessary information to make an informed decision. A Headteacher is able to consider individual circumstances on a case-by-case basis. A number of things will be taken into consideration, including the time of year, length of the holiday, the reason for the holiday, impact on learning, timing of exams or tests, family circumstances and the wishes of parents as well as the overall attendance and attainment of the child.
  3. What happens if the Headteacher refuses to give permission? If a Headteacher decides to refuse a parent’s request for a holiday in term time and the parent takes the child on holiday anyway, it would be marked as an “unauthorised absence”. Only schools, not parents can authorise absence.
  4. If the absence is unauthorised, will I be automatically issued a penalty notice? NO. It would depend on the pupil’s previous absence record. Penalty notices are issued for failing to regularly attend school. Please refer to the Code of Conduct below for further details.

Truancy Patrols

No child may be out of school without a valid reason. The Education Welfare Service (EWS) and South Wales Police (SWP) carry out regular patrols across the County Borough both on foot, and in police vehicles.

Reasons for being out of school may include:

  • travelling to or from a medical or dental appointment;
  • a pre-arranged absence from school for family reasons or for religious observance;
  • travelling to or from a work experience placement.

 Stopping Children

A uniformed Police Officer accompanied by an Education Inclusion Officer (EIO) will stop all children who are out of school during school hours and who appear to be of school age whether they are accompanied by an adult or not.

What will happen if my child is stopped?

The EIO will have monitoring forms to complete in all cases, whether the reason for absence is genuine or not. Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council Education Welfare Service (EWS) would ask all children and adults to support the truancy initiatives by giving the details required. Only by having this information is the EWS able to evaluate the process.

The details requested are:

  • child's name;
  • family address and telephone number;
  • name of person accompanying (if child is accompanied);
  • name of parent;
  • child's date of birth;
  • school attended (if the child is a registered pupil);
  • reason why child is out of school;
  • child's ethnicity.

The EIO will also record:

  • location where the child was stopped and time;
  • details of the Police Officer and EIO carrying out the patrol.

What will happen next?

If the pupil is out of school unaccompanied and without good reason he/she will be returned to school by the police and EIO and handed over to a member of the school staff.

If the child is considered to be "at risk" he/she may be accompanied home or in extreme cases to a "place designated by the Police as a safe place for the duration of the patrol". Contact will then be made with the child's parent or carer to collect him/her. Within the next few days each of the parents/carers of all pupils stopped will receive a letter from the EWS if the absence was considered to be unauthorised. Additionally, a home visit may be made by the schools’ EIO.

What if my child is not a registered pupil at a school?

The EIO will still take the information detailed above for monitoring purposes. The patrol is aware of a number of pupils who are "educated otherwise than at school" and will record that on the form. The parents of an electively home-educated child would be well advised to explain to him/her about the likelihood of truancy patrols.

If you have not been able to secure a school place for your child, for instance if you are new to Merthyr Tydfil, the patrol will pass the child's details to the School Admissions Team.

For more information please contact the Education Welfare Service (01685) 724681 or educationwelfare@merthyr.gov.uk.

Please remember that the aim of the Education Welfare Service is to support children and young people in receiving the education to which they are entitled.

If you would like any further information about the referral process or would like to speak to an education welfare officer can contact the school directly or alternatively please contact the education welfare service on 01685 724681 or educationwelfare@merthyr.gov.uk

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