Attendance today is achievement tomorrow
‘The C Word’
It is hard now to remember a world of schooling before the Covid-19 pandemic, before the world of ‘bubbles’, Joe Wicks' workouts and online learning. For many children (and some working professionals), what the pandemic taught us is that certain work can be completed from the comfort of our home. Fast forward two years and thankfully, this unprecedented way of delivering education to children and young people is largely behind us. Regular routines have been re-established and children are able to come to school to fully access their education. Children can fully engage in a rich tapestry of social, educational and cultural experiences that vastly contribute to their life experiences.
Across the country in all settings, however, school attendance is still lower than pre-pandemic levels. With more parents and carers working from home and the knowledge that children ‘managed’ at home during the pandemic, the temptation to allow children to stay at home due to sniffles, coughs and tummy aches is perhaps part of the reason nationally schools are seeing this decline in overall attendance.
We all have to work together to improve attendance, not just for the national, local and school based figures, but to improve the life chances of children.
Attendance today is achievement tomorrow
We view 90% as a relatively high number. I recently gave a child an assessment score of 90% and understandably, they were very happy with this. When we put 90% under the lens of attendance however, this seemingly high figure translates to something entirely different. 90% in terms of attendance translates to twenty days off in one academic year. That is one hundred hours of lesson time each year that children who have 90% attendance are missing. In the course of the time at Bradfield School, a child who consistently has an attendance figure of 90% misses over one hundred days of education- almost half a school year. Some studies show that 90% attendance across Years 10 and 11 results in reducing a student's chances of securing 5 or more GCSEs (at grades 9-4) from 78.7% to 30.9% We must also think of the lost social & cultural experiences that are missed: the opportunity to play, chat and discuss with other children and adults.
‘80% of success is showing up’- Woody Allen
As the quote above suggests the battle is mostly won when children attend school. When they are physically in the school building. It is here that Bradfield School can appropriately and effectively ensure they are safeguarded, provide quality first teaching to meet any needs and provide stimulating lessons that will stretch and challenge their minds.
However, for a small number of students, schools are seeing a rise in what is known in the world of education as Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA). EBSA is a term that is used to describe behaviours of a child who for many reasons, usually emotional, does not attend school or lessons within school. I am believer, like many of my colleagues at Bradfield School that all behaviour is a form of communication. When a child decides to refuse to go to a lesson or attend school, this could be because that young person is lacking the language needed to tell the adults around them that they are struggling. There may be many factors why that child is struggling: anxiety, stress, access to the curriculum, SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) or pastoral needs. This can be a very frightening feeling for some of the children we work with. The most important factor when looking at whether a child is struggling with EBSA is communication. Communication both to and from school, discussions that puts the child at the centre. Not adults around them telling each other what is best for them, but a child centred discussion- fully taking their thoughts and views on board and trying to build positive relationships and successes for that young person.
Using the guidance from Sheffield Local Authority, Bradfield School operates an Assess, Plan, Do, Review cycle at all levels. This cycle will assess the current situation of a child, produce a plan, action that plan to see if the outcomes change and review. This cycle can happen at any level from form tutor & classroom teacher to Head of Year and Attendance Team.
Ultimately if we all want to raise life chances of our children and young people, we need to all be challenging absent sessions and asking could that child have attended school? There may, of course, be unavoidable reasons why a child cannot attend school, but we must work together to unpick the reasons why a child is absent and provide support at all levels. Without this, we run the very real risk of not preparing a child for the big wide world after Bradfield School. If you aren't already doing so, please talk to us in school, or visit the guidance from Sheffield Local Authority via the link below, if you feel you need help to support your child's improved attendance.
Tom Markham - Associate Assistant Head Attendance and Head of Year 9