My Attendance Audit so far has included surveying all local authorities, carrying out a deep-dive in 10 local authorities to get to the root of school absence and a detailed investigation of the daily attendance patterns in autumn 2021.
My report based on the deep-dive of local authorities, ‘Voices of England’s missing children’ found that alongside the barriers which make it difficult for children to attend school regularly, very rarely do all those responsible for supporting children to attend school actually know that a child has been absent.
Historically, attendance data on pupils has been infrequently reported to local authorities, who can share the information with children’s social workers and who are responsible for ensuring that children are receiving a suitable education.
Additionally, whilst some schools have the resources to interrogate and explore their daily attendance data, others do not which means that children are more likely to fall through the gaps and out of sight.
The Department for Education (DfE) has launched a process by which schools can share their daily attendance data automatically, with no need for administrative input from the school. I completely support this initiative and recommend that all schools sign-up as a matter of urgency. Schools can find out more about the process and information on how to sign-up here.
By sharing the data with DfE schools, Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) and local authorities will have secure access to more up to date pupil level attendance data including access to daily attendance reports and the ability to compare attendance data with the previous academic year. This will mean that those who can provide support to children who are struggling, will learn about absence much sooner. Up-to-date data on attendance ensures that attendance officers, schools, MATs and local authorities can work together proactively rather than reactively to support children’s attendance at school. The DfE daily attendance reports also lessen the burden on schools to create bespoke attendance reports from their data and will help schools to meet new guidance expectations set out in working together to improve school attendance.
Attendance is everyone’s business, meaning that everyone involved with the care of children is equally responsible for ensuring children’s attendance. This means schools, LAs, social care, NHS workers and community partners all have a responsibility to see the child in school every day, and to wrap support around that child. All partners need to make children’s attendance a top priority.
Everyone in these roles needs to have access to up to date information. It is therefore extremely encouraging that DfE will be publishing fortnightly data from 29 September on attendance at the local authority level. At the start of the new term, DfE published the first release of this daily data at a national level, showing that overall attendance on Tuesday September 6 was 95%. By school type, attendance was 95% in primary schools, 94% in secondary schools and 89% in special schools. Our analysis of daily attendance patterns in autumn 2021 shows how important attendance in the first week is for overall term-level attendance. Children who had an unauthorised absence on any day during the first week of term had an average term-level unauthorised absence rate of 25% compared to an unauthorised absence rate of 2% for pupils who didn’t miss any sessions in the first week.
To ensure that every child has equal access to support, every child must be included in the data. I am very pleased that over 65% of schools in England are now sharing their daily attendance data with DfE. However, all schools need to sign-up to DfE’s data collection as soon as possible so that we can all act to support children and provide the support that they need. In addition to this, we need to improve the data on children not on school rolls. I will continue my work in this area, including representing the children who are not in school at all, who are often the most in need of additional support.