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What is classed as a possible attendance day?

(67 Posts)
yodabo Sun 01-Jul-18 16:08:03

I am really wondering what people think of how schools have to register absences from school, (Primary) whether it be, sickness, holiday, or other reasons.

We received a letter to see an attendance officer after my sons school (he is 9) reported his attendance at 89%, obviously this being below the minimum requirement.

I am sure most school use the same system of 1 full school day = 2 possible attendances. Therefore, at the time of the letter, my son could have attended school 250 times (125 days), however he attended 222 sessions (111 days) hence 14 days when he did not attend. Now this may seem horrendeous to most parents, however, he did have that terrible australian flu in January, and was off school for 2 weeks, and the other 4 days, were the usual stomach bugs going around the class etc and me adhering to the 48hr rule. This was a one off year that he missed such a big chunk of time due to flu. The whole family had it and it was awful!

we received a letter from the headmistress, stating my sons attendance was below the required standard, and then she started mentioning unauthorised absences etc, and a potential meeting with an attendance officer. To be honest this got my hackles up! none of the absences were unauthorised, in fact it states in the Education Act 1996, that when a child is sick, and the school are informed, it is an authorised absence. Therefore, i queried the head, and asked why unauthorised has been mentioned, and her reply was that, this is the letter she is required to send as per the Education Department (GOV).

I delved a bit further, and found that again, as the per Ed Act 1996, a child is deemed to be prevented to attend school by reason of sickness, and therefore, i have argued that as my son was prevented to attend school, due to sickness, then this is not a possible attendance, day, and furthermore, as he was able to attend 222 sessions, and he attended all of these 222 sessions, then his attendance is 100%!

Now you all might be thinking that i am a dog with a bone here, but to a deeper level, if schools are having to report children as absent to the County Council and including the days which are deemed are preventable to attend, and in turn, not possible, then the schools are doing themselves an injustice in any league tables, and furthermore, had i have accepted the offer of a meeting with an attendance officer, we would have both been wasting our time, as my son was just sick, not playing hooky, or on holiday, just sick!!

I really am after trying to get some support to take this inaccurate reporting further, and to get schools to provide maybe 2 attendance reports, one for days attended out of the school term, and the other for the individual childs possible attendance.

I also appreciate schools have an incredible job to do, the teachers at my sons school are awesome, and it is this injustice to the schools that i am really questioning. The irony is that if the County Council had sent the attendance officer to meet me at my sons school, they wouldnt have had a clue whether this child with 89% attendance was tall, short, thin, fat, or any other combination, he was purely a statistic that fell below the Governments standard.

Any comments (please be kind!) would be appreciated!!

OP’s posts: |
PendingInvoices Sun 01-Jul-18 17:11:03

Was the 2 weeks off on the recommendation of the GP? Did you get that in writing?

Absent is absence as far as the DfE and Ofsted are concerned- so unauthorised/authorised makes no difference ultimately .

A possible attendance day is a day when the school is open.

www.gov.uk/government/publications/school-attendance

Authorised Absence from School
Authorised absence’ means that the school has either given approval in advance for a pupil of compulsory school age to be away, or has accepted an explanation offered afterwards as justification for absence.

Unauthorised Absence from School
Unauthorised absence is where a school is not satisfied with the reasons given for the absence.

Maybe rather than trying to target the toss you could accept the help that they are offering to enable your child to have higher attendance?

yodabo Sun 01-Jul-18 17:19:12

Pendinginvoices - yes my son was fully under the Doctor! He was really poorly!

Its not a case of 'arguing the toss' as you say, if you read my post in full, i am in complete support of the school, and they do not need to help me enable my son to have a higher attendance, as he attends every single day that it is possible for him to. My issue is that the school have to report to the Dept for Ed, via the County Council, that his attendance in under the threshold, although the Ed Act 1996, states that he is prevented from attending by reason of sickness. So its a double negative.

OP’s posts: |
admission Sun 01-Jul-18 17:19:34

If a pupil is off sick and you as parent have informed the school then it goes down as authorised absence.
There is without doubt great pressure on all school to improve attendance and 90% is a cut off below which schools will be paying more attention, so I am not surprised at all by the letter. I am not aware of any standard letter at national letter but there could be a standard letter at LA level. However it is a standard letter and nothing to get worried about.
I do however take you point that mentioning unauthorised absence is annoying when your child does not have any. Again this is a priority at present to reduce unauthorised absence and I suspect that the school are just deciding to send the same letter to all.

ohnothanks Sun 01-Jul-18 17:34:23

Sickness absence will generally not count as unauthorised absence, unless :a) you did not confirm that your child's absence was sickness related; or b) the school does not accept that your child was sick. The bumph in the EA1996 about sickness absence not counting as unauthorised absence is really more to do with potential prosecution (or a fine in lieu) of the parents for 'failing to ensure regular attendance'. It means that if you can show that the absence should not be treated as unauthorised because the child was sick, you have what's known as a 'statutory defence'

tethersend Sun 01-Jul-18 17:45:01

Ask for a copy of his attendance record. If the absences are marked as ‘I’ (for illness) they are authorised absences. If they are marked with a zero, they are unauthorised.

Point out any discrepancies to the head and suggest that they draft a second template letter to address authorised absences should they be forced to write to parents.

Terri84 Sun 01-Jul-18 17:46:02

And if the absences are authorised due to sickness, by passing details onto other organisations, then that is a breach of the GDPR

PatriciaHolm Sun 01-Jul-18 17:47:58

As others have said, sickness you have informed the school about should go down as an authorised absence. However, the letter she is obliged to send is triggered by his overall absence, authorised or not. So the letter should have referred to "absence" not "unauthorised absence".

yodabo Sun 01-Jul-18 17:55:34

tethersend - I did actually ask for his attendance record, and they had marked him absent for 2 x half days, for which he was at school, and they amended this, but the letter had already been sent (obs!) and the LA had already asked for an attendance meeting, hence I was not impressed! I have to say the school is fabulous, I just feel they are doing unnecessary work to conform to the DFE ulitmately, which is contradicting the Ed Act ! Thank you for your comments smile

Terri84 - what a very good point!! I hadnt thought of that! its ironic as I have had to do the whole GDPR conformance for my own company, and this hadnt occured to me! We have just had our GDPR letters from the school, I may without data now, as it is inaccurate!

OP’s posts: |
yodabo Sun 01-Jul-18 17:58:50

PatriciaHolm - thank you for your comments, the letter went on and on about unauthorised attendance, and the invite for a meeting with the attendance officer. I did query this in writing to the Head, and she said that she has to send that letter regardless of authorised/unauthorised attendance.

Because of the character that I am, and the job that I do, i do challenge numerical inaccuracies and as i said, i am a dog with a bone!! smile

OP’s posts: |
tethersend Sun 01-Jul-18 18:01:32

Was his (correct) absence recorded as ‘I’ or ‘0’?

yodabo Sun 01-Jul-18 18:12:20

tethersend - his correct absences were marked as 'I' 's . The school office also summarise the date and time of the phone call when i called them to notify he wouldnt be at school, along with the illness details, hence every correct reported absence was detailed in full too on the same report. smile

OP’s posts: |
tethersend Sun 01-Jul-18 18:44:01

Well that’s good- sounds like they have just disregarded their own data in favour of a standard template letter. I would therefore concentrate my efforts on getting them to produce a letter to ‘deal with’ authorised absences and get them to cancel the EWO referral as it was their mistake- as evidenced by their own data.

wentmadinthecountry Sun 01-Jul-18 19:23:03

The letters in our area are generated automatically - as a school we have no choice other than to send them.

Required attendance in our LEA is 96% and we are no longer supposed to accept a parent's word that a child is ill (I know!!) but we are supposed to require proof such as seeing an appointment card, prescribed medication. I am sure this must contravene the new DP laws but I doubt our LA are that forward thinking.

Please don't overthink or take offence - I had a similar letter for my own daughter as she has had tonsil problems and a tonsil op this year. Schools just have to do it. They are under huge pressure to improve attendance.

Terri84 Sun 01-Jul-18 20:04:54

The letters in our area are generated automatically
Trouble is, it can all be counter-productive, as it can get the backs up of parents who would otherwise be cooperative with the school

PendingInvoices Sun 01-Jul-18 20:23:29

You will be that parent. Just let it go. Meet with the attendance officer and take any advice that is given.

Attendance officers are often either employed by the school/academy trust or within a locality/group of school.

There isn't any injustice to the schools. Your son is (or possibly was if his attendance has improved) a persistent absentee. Schools are judged on their persistent absentees, what actions they put in place (so letters/meetings/visits) and what the impact of this is.

The school doesn't need you to fight their corner, you will just use up more of their limited resource to deal with your complaint. You have already taken up headteacher time and if you complain then it will take up more of their time and possibly governor time as well.

I really am after trying to get some support to take this inaccurate reporting further, and to get schools to provide maybe 2 attendance reports, one for days attended out of the school term, and the other for the individual childs possible attendance.

So lets make the school generate more paperwork that isn't directly impacting of classroom teaching and learning is that you feel better as a parent?

You son was off, it doesn't matter if it was authorised or unauthorised.

Teaching is a profession in crisis and people wonder why?

MaisyPops Sun 01-Jul-18 20:31:36

i have argued that as my son was prevented to attend school, due to sickness, then this is not a possible attendance, day, and furthermore, as he was able to attend 222 sessions, and he attended all of these 222 sessions, then his attendance is 100%!
Possible attendance is how many sessions can students attend when school is open (e.g. if there's school closure due to snow, flooding etc then the number of possible attendance days will be lower). A child being ill doesn't give them 100% attendance on the grounds that they were there 100% of the time except the times they weren't.

He was ill. His attendance is lower because of that. Schools have a duty to promote attendance as 90% attendance is one day off a fortnight.

I'm not a fan of automatically generated letters but I don't see what your issue is. Attendance under 90% is classed ad persistent absenteeism (note children with ongoing medical issues e.g. operations / cancer treatment etc are handled differently)

Terri84 Sun 01-Jul-18 20:32:42

You son was off, it doesn't matter if it was authorised or unauthorised.
If it doesn't matter, why have the distinction? And if they have a distinction, it should be accurate. A lack of resources isn't a defence for not adhering to data protection legislation.

Iamagreyhoundhearmeroar Sun 01-Jul-18 20:35:45

You actually argued that as your son was sick on those days; they were not possible attendance days?? Dear God...

PendingInvoices Sun 01-Jul-18 20:46:55

I cant believe that you got to 89% with no prior action.

More typically would have been:

95% 1st letter, offer of meeting and additional support.
92% 2nd letter, meeting with school attendance officer/pastoral lead, possible referral to additional support if required.
90%. More official letter , meeting with area attendance officer. Bespoke plan put in place with regular in school monitoring. At east weekly catch up with parents by school by phone or by meeting.

Tomorrowillbeachicken Sun 01-Jul-18 21:30:49

Aren’t we at 300 odd days atm?

Tomorrowillbeachicken Sun 01-Jul-18 21:32:12

350+ if my calculations are right

PandaPieForTea Sun 01-Jul-18 21:39:48

I’d be more concerned about the sessions where he was present but marked as absent. Wouldn’t that be a risk if there was a fire and they thought he wasn’t there so didn’t check he’d got out ok?

Perhaps schools (or local authorities) need to move to the type of state where many short absences are considered more problematic than one longer one. This is used by some organisations for absence from work and might pick up the difference between a child having 2 weeks off with flu vs 2 days off every week for 5 weeks with trivial ailments.

It would be interesting to know what support could be give to a child who has had a couple of weeks off with a genuine illness and then perfect attendance since.

ButterChickenwithyellowrice Sun 01-Jul-18 21:40:18

350+ if my calculations are right

Most English state schools have 190 days or 380 sessions per academic year.

ButterChickenwithyellowrice Sun 01-Jul-18 21:44:03

It would be interesting to know what support could be give to a child who has had a couple of weeks off with a genuine illness and then perfect attendance since.

Across the year that wouldn't make you PA. You need 19 days off- which is almost 4 weeks or 1 day every 2 weeks.

There are more PA in the autumn term as having a 2 week holiday then has a bigger impact on % attendance than in the summer term, but its evens out by the end of the year.

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