Who knew it would only take a Global Pandemic to get my attendance above the national average.
For the last 6 years our yearly regular battle has been to try to get attendance above 95% (actually now 96%). We have strived for the hallowed ground of the national average. However valiantly we have fought ultimately we have come up short at the final hurdle. We have tried everything…awards, class rewards, attendance improvement awards, meetings with parents, engagement of the Educational Social Worker (when there was one), fining…you name it, we’ve tried it.
Regardless of the actions we have had roughly the same result with slight improvements (Attendance rising like a rather tired bear just coming out of hibernation from 94.2% to the glorious heights of 94.7%)
Our pattern of attendance goes roughly like this
Autumn 1 90-91%
Autumn 2 93-94%
Spring 1 97-98%
Spring 2 95-96%
Summer 1 95-96%
Summer 2 92-93%
Occasionally there is bit of variation depending on whether a bug hits and knocks the attendance but generally those have been the figures.
So I’m sat with my attendance for the autumn term so far in the middle of a global pandemic and my figure is the best autumn attendance I’ve ever had since I’ve been at the school. 97.7% Year1-Year 6.
So what is the difference. Well for us there is one big change. Hardly anybody this year has taken a term-time holiday. That’s it.
Let me explain my school is in Whitby a lot of our parent’s work in seasonal jobs related to tourism. The tourist season in Whitby has been ever expanding, it starts in March and continues all the way into the start of November with its Goth-fest which usually brings the Vampiric hordes flocking. Summer is busy, Easter is busy, half-terms are busy. Our parents who can’t take holidays in the holiday time grab holidays when there are lulls in the tourism (term-time), also some parents choose to go in term-time because they can’t afford to go in the seasonal peak times. To be fair this year I couldn’t flippin’ afford a small cottage in Cornwall this summer due to the ridiculous mark-ups.
As a head I understand the impact term-time holiday can have, I also completely understand why our parents choose to take their children on holiday.
Do I think I’ve cracked attendance? Nope.
Will the same problem resurface next year or whenever this situation is over? Undoubtedly.
For us as a school, attendance in an Ofsted will always be a battle-ground, we are forever on the back foot.
I do think it’s time for a more-nuanced discussion about school attendance. The percentage really is only the start.