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School attendance and private company handling attendance

(64 Posts)
AfroPunk Sun 12-Feb-17 18:01:26

We received a letter on Thursday detailing that the school are now working in partnership with a Ltd company to deal with atrendance. The new threshold is now 95% (other was 90%). Our 4yo dd has has 94% attendance so far and we received a letter over the weekend. As an aside, she has 4 unauthorised absences, which is fucking news to me (sorry about my language. I'm fuming).

So what's the deal with a private company handling absences? And what the fuck is going on when a child can no longer take the time off they need to recover from bugs? I'm fucking livid! I am disheartened, feel that this is an Ofsted appeasing load of shite.

prh47bridge Sun 12-Feb-17 19:08:18

As your daughter is only 4 at the moment you cannot be fined. Are they trying to fine you? If so you need to tell whoever has issued the Fixed Penalty Notice that it is not valid and should be withdrawn. Point out to them that you cannot commit an offence under section 444 of the Education Act 1996 as your daughter is not yet of compulsory school age.

So what's the deal with a private company handling absences

They have decided to engage this company to chase up absences rather than doing it themselves. This probably means the payment to the private company is less than the school think it would cost them to do it themselves. It may be that they have a problem with attendance and taking on a company to help them address it is cheaper than taking on additional staff.

Note that the government sets the level of fines for absence and the LA sets the policy on the circumstances under which parents are fined. The company has no control over these things. Any revenue from fines goes to the LA.

And what the fuck is going on when a child can no longer take the time off they need to recover from bugs

If a child is ill that should be recorded as such by the school. However, some parents (and I am not saying you are one of them) keep children off school when they are well enough to attend. And, unfortunately, some parents claim their children are ill when there is nothing wrong with the child at all. Schools therefore have to check, especially for pupils with significantly above average levels of absence.

If they were previously only chasing when attendance dropped below 90% they were leaving it very late. That means they are only chasing those classed as persistent absentees. They should be investigating well before it gets to that stage.

I'm afraid that, if your daughter has 6% absence, she is well above the average for primary schools. That is under 4%. However, until she reaches compulsory school age you don't need to worry about this too much.

user1484226561 Sun 12-Feb-17 19:55:19

yes it is "ofsted appeasing" but until parents actually take it on board that ofsted grading criteria are a load of useless crap, then schools have to jump through each and every ludicrous hoop that ofsted dream up.

The point of employing a company is that it costs less than the teacher time taken up for doing it.

I promise you no one at the school gives a shit how often your child has been off, or why, but we are told to do these things, so we do them.

And everything else we do cos ofsted tell us to is also a load of bollox no one gives a shit about.

irvineoneohone Sun 12-Feb-17 20:01:32

prh47bridge, may I ask you a question?
My ds used to have very low attendance due to illness. We had a great relationship with school, so, although we did receive red letter from school, we were always advised with hand written notes to just ignore it.

I just wondered what happens if private company took over attendance. Are those mutual understanding between school and parents can possibly be ignored?

Starlight2345 Sun 12-Feb-17 20:20:15

I have to say this would be my huge concern irvine

lets face it when private companies take over there is usually some bonus for how many fines/ people they get off a certain benefit..It never seems to help the people who need it.

prh47bridge Sun 12-Feb-17 21:06:27

Are those mutual understanding between school and parents can possibly be ignored

As the private company will have been appointed by the school I would expect no overall change provided the governors put appropriate arrangements in place. The private company will be doing whatever the school is paying it to do. They can't pursue their own agenda.

I can imagine difficulties if, say, the company is given a target level of attendance to achieve and the school's private arrangements with some parents prevent that level of attendance being achieved, but that is really an issue with the school rather than anything to do with a private company being appointed. The problem would still arise if the school was trying to achieve the target level of attendance on its own.

irvineoneohone Sun 12-Feb-17 21:22:46

Thank you, prh.

admission Sun 12-Feb-17 21:38:58

I am intrigued by this development.
As PRH says the average attendance for a primary school pupil is around 95-96% so your child has had more time of than the average. But that is what it is and average, so some in your daughters class will have lower attendance and some higher. The new "target" for attendance is 95% because if your child is not in school they are not learning, so there is an emphasis on attendance. However if your child is ill they are ill and there is nothing you or anybody else can down about that.
What I am intrigued about is what this company is going to do. To focus on improving attendance they will have to be given data and contact details, which I would say was the school giving out inappropriate information. I really do question whether an outside company is going to do a better job than one of the school office staff giving the parent a first day call when child is absent and probably cheaper.
I accept OP that you probably do not want to say where you are but I would much appreciate a PM saying what the company is called and whereabouts you are in the country. I work in education and would want to establish just what this company believes it is going to achieve.

LineysRun Sun 12-Feb-17 21:42:22

These arbitrary percentages are just that till the Supreme Court case is adjudicated. The case has been heard, but the ruling is awaited.

paddlenorapaddle Sun 12-Feb-17 21:43:35

Did the parents consent to a 3rd party having their children's information or records ?

user1484226561 Sun 12-Feb-17 23:34:59

it isn't realistically manageable for school staff to do all the attendance follow up, so farming it out is more effective. The last school I was in, attendance phone calls were the biggest part of my daily work, even including teaching.

prh47bridge Mon 13-Feb-17 00:37:35

These arbitrary percentages are just that till the Supreme Court case is adjudicated

The Supreme Court case will make no difference at all to attendance targets or the definition of persistent absenteeism. It may clarify the circumstances in which parents can be fined for term time holidays. However, if Platt wins his case it is likely the government will seek to change the law in order to restore the previous interpretation.

Did the parents consent to a 3rd party having their children's information or records

It is a myth that consent is always required before an organisation shares data. Consent guarantees that an organisation can share data but data can be shared without first gaining consent in certain situations. Whilst it would need a decision by the courts to give certainty, it is likely that parental consent is not required for this sharing.

AfroPunk Mon 13-Feb-17 10:14:21

The unauthorised absences are two days for which I requested leave for the birth of our son. I am livid as I was told by the office 'it will be fine'; they were very relaxed about it and actually delayed me submitting paperwork until September (which was 2w or so before the birth). I was in hospital having a CSection- definitely extenuating circumstances in my mind. What I'm upset about is that I asked, told it was usually granted and heard no more after submitting the request. I assumed it had been granted as I had not heard it wasn't! This will also affect my 7yo at the same school.

Megatherium Mon 13-Feb-17 10:19:43

It would be interesting to do a Freedom of Information Act request for all documents relating to the appointment of the outside company, including the contract and all correspondence with them, and minutes of governors' meetings agreeing to this.

SuperRainbows Mon 13-Feb-17 10:45:20

Your dd doesn't have to be in school at all until the term after her 5th Birthday.

This type of thing drives me mad and was one of the contributing factors in deciding to home educate my DD9.

Schools are under hideous pressure to reach targets and then pass this on to parents and students.

This results in sick children being sent into school by worried parents. It also results in schools not sending sick children home, something that would never have happened when I was a primary school teacher in the 90's.

My DD told 7 different adults(lunch time supervisors, Teaching Assistants and teachers) that she was really unwell and she was fobbed off and kept in school.

My DD 14 was informed by head of year to keep her attendance percentage up, we should try and make medical appointments in the middle of the day, so she would be there for both registration periods. (9 am and 3.15pm). To minimise the impact on her education, I tried to make her frequent appointments early in the morning, or late afternoon.

So attendance at registration is more important to them than actually being there for the lessons.

It makes my blood boil.

prh47bridge Mon 13-Feb-17 10:53:17

What I'm upset about is that I asked, told it was usually granted and heard no more after submitting the request. I assumed it had been granted as I had not heard it wasn't

In that case you should complain to the school. It sounds like you had reasonable grounds for believing that the absence was authorised. If it was not they should have told you so, especially after the office led you to believe that it would be authorised.

SuperRainbows Mon 13-Feb-17 10:56:26

OP doesn't need absences authorised though as DD is below age for compulsory education.
Out of courtesy I would have informed them DS would be absent, but that is all.

prh47bridge Mon 13-Feb-17 10:56:36

It would be interesting to do a Freedom of Information Act request for all documents relating to the appointment of the outside company, including the contract and all correspondence with them, and minutes of governors' meetings agreeing to this.

I doubt you would get all of it. I would be very surprised if you got the contract. I would expect the school to argue that this, and much of the other information, is covered by exemptions within the Freedom of Information Act.

cantkeepawayforever Mon 13-Feb-17 10:58:26

"I promise you no one at the school gives a shit how often your child has been off, or why, but we are told to do these things, so we do them."

I'm sorry, but certainly in primary, we care.

We care about the child who is always off on a Monday morning, especially when it turns out that they have had to get themselves up, dressed into last Friday's clothes, and grabbed a slice of plain bread for lunch, because their parents are too hung over / coming down from the weekend to get out of bed.

We care about the child who gets every bug going round, particularly because we can also see that they are uncared for and underfed.

We care about the child who is 'ill' every Friday, because their parent has a F-Sun job so they are required to stay at home to look after their 3 younger siblings.

We care about the child who is 'ill' after every visit to their non-resident parent, until such time as their bruises have faded.

We care about the 9 year old young carer who is late every day because they get the rest of the family up and dressed before catching the public bus across town to school.

We care about the child who is kept off for every sniffle, especially because they are already behind and every lesson missed they fall even further behind, and we know that their parent does not value education at all. We also care about the child who is there every day, from 45 minutes before the school opens and whatever state of health they are in, because their mum can't afford to lose their job by asking for a day off to care for a sick child.

Oh yes, we care (I have made none of the above up. I have left out the ones - fabricated illness / injury, children kept home to work) that sound as if they could have been made up but are also true....

prh47bridge Mon 13-Feb-17 11:00:36

OP doesn't need absences authorised though as DD is below age for compulsory education

That is true but she now tells us she has a 7yo at the same school who may also be affected. That child's absences do need to be authorised and the OP can be fined for unauthorised absences. I would therefore complain about this now in the hope that this would head off any attempt to impose a fine.

cantkeepawayforever Mon 13-Feb-17 11:09:54

I would also say to user that if no-one in the secondary school they work in cares at all about any pupil absence, then no wonder it is - rightly - under the Ofsted cosh. Such a neglect of basic safeguarding, such a lack of care about their pupils, indeed the whole attitude that user displays, is one I would hate to encounter in a school in real life.

To say that a basic level of human interest in and care for pupils is a load of bollox - and to imply that no school is interested in pupils' wellbeing except because Ofsted demands it - is simply bizarre.

user1484226561 Mon 13-Feb-17 11:19:32

I would also say to user that if no-one in the secondary school they work in cares at all about any pupil absence, then no wonder it is - rightly - under the Ofsted cosh. Such a neglect of basic safeguarding, such a lack of care about their pupils, indeed the whole attitude that user displays, is one I would hate to encounter in a school in real life.

absolute rubbish, we re there to offer students an education, thats our job, not to namby pamby them and their parents. So many people try and enforce some sort of social service ethic onto us, that is not our job, we are not there for that, we are not trained for it or paid for it.

Child comes in, I teach them, child does not come in, I don't.

user1484226561 Mon 13-Feb-17 11:20:42

So attendance at registration is more important to them than actually being there for the lessons.

no it isn't its just another statistic being warped for ofsted, school doesn't care, like I said.

childmaintenanceserviceinquiry Mon 13-Feb-17 11:29:31

cant flowers for caring (a lot)

LifeTheUniverseAndNamechanging Mon 13-Feb-17 11:33:23

I agree with you, OP. It's very debatable how much a child who is ill but is sent to school anyway learns during that day. It's not so much about learning but a culture of presenteeism.

Rather like the notion that young children learn more from a week at school than they would from a one-off foreign holiday. Because learning doesn't count unless it's Ofsted-categorised and measured in sublevels, yes?

None of it is the fault of individual teachers. It's pressure from above.

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