The Department for Education has published its response to the consultation from January this year, ‘School attendance: improving the consistency of support’. The consultation sought views on four proposals to build on schools, trusts and local authorities’ existing work on attendance and improve the consistency of attendance support for families across England through better, more targeted multi-agency action for the pupils who need it most.
- Requiring schools to have an attendance policy and have regard to statutory guidance on the expectations of schools, academy trusts and governing bodies of maintained schools on attendance management and improvement.
- Introducing guidance on the expectations of local authority attendance services.
- Introducing a clearer more consistent national framework for the use of attendance legal intervention, including a new regulatory framework for issuing fixed penalty notices for absence.
- Bringing the rules for granting leaves of absence in academies in line with other state funded schools
Over half of the overall responses were from parents (56%) and there were 1,640 responses in total.
In addressing the four areas above the consultation found that:
- 71% of respondents agreed with schools publishing an attendance policy
- There needs to be more multi-agency working with other children and families services and the statutory guidance on inclusion does not go far enough to address individual pupils with SEND or mental health issues.
- Only 1/3 of respondents considered the new framework as being sufficient to improve consistency in the issuing of fixed penalty notices.
- Parents identified a greater need for flexibility in the guidance and that more appropriate school provision is needed to meet the individual needs of pupils.
- Other representative bodies (including unions and charities) suggested that there needs to be a greater focus on preventing school absence, especially around disability and mental health.
The Equality Act 2010 and the Code of Practice 2014 state that schools must think ahead when they are planning their policies and must plan and make reasonable adjustments to these policies for disabled pupils. For the purpose of avoiding discrimination, anticipating and making reasonable adjustments, and meeting wider responsibilities, schools need to know who their disabled pupils are and how best to ensure this duty is carried out. When considering the attendance policies this should be considered in the equality impact assessment for each setting.