Update from Suffolk Education Partnership Attendance task group

This group – which includes representatives from SCC; maintained schools; academies/trusts; DfE – met on 5 December 2023. We received an update from Angela Coote, SCC’s newly appointed Head of School Attendance Service, in terms of the work of Suffolk’s Education Welfare Officers. DfE also provided an update around the support which is being provided to a number of Ipswich schools around raising levels of pupil attendance.

Core to that work is a project with ImpactED, an organisation which has identified some academic studies into the factors which correlate closely with school attendance, based on pupil and parent/carer self-report gathered via questionnaires. There is a developing sense that there is a group of pupils who can move in and out of regular attendance based on the extent to which they feel they ‘belong’ in school at any one point in time – and that a comparison between a school’s ‘belonging’ indicators and national benchmarks may be a productive starting point for action planning.

Although this project is mainly focused on Ipswich schools at present, there is an ambition and determination to disseminate any transferable learning across Suffolk schools as a whole – further updates will be provided in due course. Any school wishing to take part in this project with ImpactED – especially those in more ‘rural’ settings across Suffolk – should contact [email protected] for more details.

The group also received updates from those organisations, with operations in Suffolk, which are running attendance hubs on behalf of DfE. Unity Schools Partnership has offered to share attendance-related resources with all Suffolk schools and Olive Academies will share its thinking/experiences on effective structures in terms of attendance teams within schools.

There was also consideration of the close linkages between attendance (as a protective factor for children, particularly the most vulnerable) and the work of social care colleagues and MASH. There is appetite for greater clarity in relation to when an attendance concern begins to meet the threshold for social care consideration. The work to establish a ‘medical protocol’ with health colleagues, with a view to increasing consistency in how children who are showing signs of emotionally based school avoidance are supported, continues.