Agenda item

School Attendance - GCC duties

The Committee is asked to note the report.

Minutes:

Phil Haslett, Head of Education Strategy and Development introduced the report and explained that attendance was a very important focus for the Department for Education as outlined in the White Paper and Schools Bill. It was also explained that changes to address attendance needed to be in collaboration with families and schools.

 

Attendance was reported as very good across Gloucestershire County in comparison to national averages and this was mostly consistent across the County.  National policy had added focus on early intervention and support and this was something that was already being implemented in Gloucestershire. In response to a question about persistent non-attendance, it was explained that early help and support was used to help families and the Inclusion Team worked in cooperation with schools on an individual case-by-case approach.

 

A burdens assessment had been carried out that evaluated resource and funding implications of the changes in Local Authority responsibilities. The assessment found that it did not require additional funding but it was explained in reality it needed more resources and it was predicted they would have to adjust current resources accordingly to accommodate this.

 

The policy had changed to enable tracking attendance nationally more easily further to the pandemic and all schools were required to sign up to the government portal, WONDE, by September 2023. Local authorities were also expected to have an Attendance Support Team, however the  significant change and resource requirement for Gloucestershire County Council’s Children’s Services Team would be termly meetings with each school. In response to members’ questions, it was explained that these termly meetings could not be done with multiple schools at the same time but may be conducted virtually in order to assist with efficiencies.

 

Members were advised there was a meeting Department for Education Attendance Adviser allocated to Gloucestershire and meetings have been scheduled in January with a to support implementation of  the new requirements.

 

A member raised a safeguarding concern about schools that had not been sharing attendance data but the officer explained it had typically been an issue of systems that were not aligned rather than schools that were being obstructive. It was noted there were no safeguarding concerns at this point. 

 

In response to a question about whether there was more that members could do to help receive more national level funding, it was explained that all options had been investigated and there was some hope that there would be some leverage when the Bill progressed through legislation.

 

A question was raised concerning home-schooling arrangements. It was explained that children that had left a school to go into elective home education were picked up at school visits. It was also explained that Gloucestershire's elective home education service was seen as a better approach compared to other parts of the UK.   It was clarified there was a general increase in home education numbers rather than children being expelled from schools, as some parents felt home education was the right education route for their child.  

 

A member raised concern over the relationship between attendance and school performance. Officers explained they did not have direct data from within the County but accepted that there was a broadly accepted principle that attendance was related to educational outcome.   It was also noted the Authority received daily updates about attendance from schools that were reporting.

 

A member raised concern over the figure of 84% attendance   from Alternative Provision Services (APS). It was explained there was only one APS that was reporting data and the Authority had been working directly with them to improve the level of absence.  The Committee recognised that attendance at APS were consistently lower and this was also a national issue.

 

The Director of Children Services (DCS) explained that if children weren't in an education setting, then they weren't learning anything and this in turn presented a significant burden for Children Services in the long term.  He recognised that educational attendance was an important factor, as it kept vulnerable children safe. 

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