North Yorkshire parents urged to help drive up school attendance

Classroom file pic.

The most senior education officer in North Yorkshire has appealed to parents to ensure their children attend school on the first day of the autumn term after it emerged attendance levels remained below the rate that is classed as “persistent absence”.

North Yorkshire County Council’s director of children’s services Stuart Carlton said while the government was set to introduce a series of measures to drive up numbers in classrooms from next year the authority was committed to improving the 87 per cent attendance rate the county’s secondary schools saw in the summer term.

While the Government does not set attendance targets, with schools being expected to set their own, an attendance rate of 95 per cent is generally considered good as allows for children to miss 9.5 days across the school year.

Persistent absence is defined as an attendance rate of 90 per cent or below.

The appeal comes just days after the government issued fresh guidance to schools and local authorities to support them to improve school attendance.

The Department for Education has concluded the disruption to education caused by the pandemic has exacerbated some of the issues that previously led to pupils missing school avoidably.

The government has also asked all schools to set out an attendance policy to detail how they can support pupils to attend as regularly as possible and ensure interventions like fines are only used when all other options have been explored.

A meeting of the authority’s executive heard at the end of June while North Yorkshire’s primary school attendance had risen back to 93 per cent, attendance for those on secondary school rolls in the county had improved from 78 per cent in September to 87 per cent by the end of June.

However, the meeting heard the national attendance rate at secondary schools at the end of the summer term was lower still, at just 85 per cent.

An officers’ report to the meeting stated the attendance of children who are identified as vulnerable, by either having an care plan or a social worker had found just 82 per cent were attending classes in June.

Liberal Democrat councillor for Ripon Barbara Brodigan, the chair of the authority’s young people scrutiny committee, pressed the executive over what action it was taking to achieve attendance rates.

Executive member for education Councillor Annabel Wilkinson replied: “School attendance is improving all the time. After the pandemic there was a drop because secondary schools were all re-infecting each other, so that skewed the figures a bit, but we are working really hard to get those schools back in September, fully funded, fully supporting.”

Mr Carlton added while the authority was committed to improving the 87 per cent attendance rate, it had concerns over government funding to implement the new statutory school attendance guidance.

He said: “My plea would be every child that can be at school in September is at school. Starting the school year well is really important. Clearly, Covid is still a thing, and will affect attendance through the year, but we are monitoring it closely.”

The meeting heard the attendance of disabled children through the pandemic had been disproportionately affected as parents were frightened about the impact on vulnerable youngsters, but attendance figures for those children was improving.