Attendance Procedures

Background to and principles behind our procedures

Attendance is one of the biggest factors in academic success so it is only right that we make it a priority. Roughly speaking, pupils who are in most of the time, meet their target grades and those who are not, don’t.

Prior to 2006, schools were not so proactive about absence. The Government’s National Strategy for Attendance introduced a set of common standards and practices. All schools were expected to make attendance a major priority. They set attendance targets, compared attendance rates of a variety of groups, for example, Year 7 boys, pupils on Free School Meals, pupils with Special Needs, high attaining pupils and so on. Schools began to look for patterns of absence, for example, pupils who are absent on Mondays and Fridays, pupils who are absent on days with common lessons (e.g. absent each time they have PE), pupils with a high number of incomplete weeks and pupils who are absent on the same day as their friends.

One of the most significant changes was that schools could no longer accept that a pupil was ill simply because a parent said so. Schools were expected to challenge parents and, once attendance fell below a certain level, insist on medical evidence before an absence was accepted. Schools were expected to run a first day response system in which they contacted parents of absent pupils to encourage them to attend, to challenge parents to check that the absence is unavoidable and to refuse to authorise some absences.

While this has caused some tension between schools and parents, it cannot be disputed that the more rigorous approach produced a significant increase in attendance. At Macclesfield High, attendance each year was about 90% and at the Academy, where we are putting pressure on pupils  and parents to improve attendance, it is about 95%. This has a huge impact on GCSE grades.

What recent research has shown is that pupils who attend 96% of the time or above hit their targets but that attainment drops dramatically once attendance drops from 96% to 93% (which in previous years may have been regarded as good attendance!).

60% of our pupils are currently meeting or exceeding that target of 96% attendance.

A further factor is that in schools where pupils know that absence is closely monitored, they are far less likely to join in with friends who may encourage them to truant or to go in late. Your children are therefore much safer in a school which challenges absence (even though it may feel irritating when you are the parent being challenged!). It is not about trying to ‘catch people out’, but about creating a mind-set or a culture that ‘everybody is in’. As parents ourselves, we know that there are days when that is just not possible, however, we cannot create that culture without challenging absence.

School is about a series of challenges and how you develop as a person while trying to meet those challenges. Developing the self-discipline and determination to get up and get in – even when you don’t feel great – is a key aim of ours and one that produces a rise in academic confidence (because you don’t fall behind.) We want our pupils to know that employers place a high value on an applicant being able to show that they will be in every day and on time.

Therefore, at The Academy, we are determined to maintain a rigorous approach to attendance and set a target for our pupils of 96%.

Attendance Procedures

  1. Registers are taken on SIMS.
  2. Registers are taken in Form Period at 8.40 and then at the beginning of each lesson within 10 minutes of the start.
  3. Teachers who forget to mark their register within 10 minutes are e-mailed by the Attendance Officer during the lesson and the Pastoral Deputy at the end of the day.
  4. Pupils are marked with “/” if present in Form Period or a “O” if absent.
  5. In classes, pupils are marked with a Learning for Progress Grade of “3” initially or an “O” if absent.
  6. Pupils who arrive late are marked with an L and the number of minutes late is recorded. They will receive a sanction for late arrival unless they have a note explaining why.
  7. Where electronic registers are not available, paper registers should be used and sent with a pupil to the front office.
  8. At the end of the week, a report is produced so that O codes can be reviewed by the Pastoral Team. They will decide whether absences will be categorised as either authorised or remain unauthorised.
  9. Authorised absences are sessions away from school with good reason such as illness, appointments or compassionate leave.
  10. Unauthorised absences are sessions where there appears to be no good reason OR, because previous absences make it unlikely that a pupil could have that many absences without a proven medical condition. We sometimes deal with pupils who are absent with a genuine illness such as tonsillitis but who have an attendance rate of less than 93% because of previous absences that were avoidable.
  11. The Attendance Officer will review weekly the number of pupils with 5 or more “O” Codes within the last two half terms and warning letters will be sent to any pupil with 7 or above. In line with most secondary schools, we will refer a pupil to Cheshire East Education Welfare Service for a Fixed Penalty Notice once a pupil has accrued 10 unauthorised sessions within two consecutive half -terms. We will also refuse to authorise any absence after 14 missed sessions (unless the reason is clear) without medical evidence. Please note that medical evidence does not necessarily mean a Doctor’s note and can include things such as an antibiotics packet or medicine bottle.

When pupils are absent

  1. If your child is absent please ring the absence line to inform us. The absence voicemail messages will be reviewed after 9.30. We request that the call is followed up with a note in the planner so that a record can be kept.
  2. You will receive a text message informing you that your child is absent – even if you have left a message. We do this to make sure that it is the parent who is sending the message (pupils could ask a friend to text on their behalf) so we check using the numbers we have on SIMS.
  3. The Pastoral Team review the day’s absences and make personal calls to pupils who have a number of broken weeks and / or to pupils whose absences need checking (for example if friends are absent on the same day or if coursework is due in). 
  4. Suspicious absences are discussed with the Year Leader and home visits are agreed.
  5. Decisions on authorising absences must be made within 5 days.
  6. Any absences due to holiday must be discussed with the Headteacher in advance. It is unlikely that holiday absence will be authorised and an FPN may be issued.

Attendance Monitoring

  1. Attendance is reviewed weekly by the Pastoral Team and decisions are made over authorising absence.
  2. Form teachers announce attendance rates each Wednesday.  Pupils record their attendance and their attendance colour in the planner. (98%+ =Gold; 96%+ = Green; 93%+ = Amber; 90%+ = Red; Below 90% = Black)

Late to School

  1.  Pupils are expected to be outside of their Form Class at the time of the first bell at 8.35.
  2. Pupils are marked late if they have not passed through the canteen doors by the time of the second bell at 8.40.
  3. All pupils who are late without good reason receive a lunch detention of 15-20 minutes unless they have an excellent punctuality record and staff feel that this late arrival was a ‘one-off’.
  4. Pupils who are regularly late will receive an additional after school detention.
  5. ‘Traffic’ will only be accepted as an excuse for late arrival where the pupil has an excellent punctuality record. A repeated ‘traffic’ excuse suggests that there is a need to leave earlier.
  6. Pupils will not be marked late when the school bus is delayed.
  7. Pupils who arrive after registers have closed at 9.00 will have their mark reviewed on a case by case basis and may be marked with a U code which is an Unauthorised absence, in line with National Attendance Guidance.

Persistent Absence

One of the changes introduced in 2006 was the category of Persistent Absentee (PA).  Pupils who were absent 20% of the time were classed as PA. Pupils who were in danger of dropping into that category were labelled OTPAs (On Track to be PA). Schools have to know the reasons why pupils were in each category and come up with a plan to help or in some cases force each to improve.

If the first half term was 40 days long, a pupil was PA once they had 8 days off (20%).

After a few years, PA became 15% absence and the OTPA figure would be about 12%. 

In September 2015 the benchmark became 10%. This meant that pupils who had 4 days off in the first half term became PA.

While we all know that a genuine bout of illness may result in 4 days off, schools are still expected to warn parents that they have moved into that category. In most cases, the child’s attendance gradually returns to a higher level as they move through the year without further absence but the information still has to be given.

Frequently asked questions

Why send a text once we have left a telephone message?

Because sometimes pupils get a friend to pretend to be the parent – so we always check that it was you who sent the text

Why do you not believe parents when they say their child is sick?

There are several reasons for this.

  • Because the overall attendance is so low that there is either an identifiable medical condition or some other reason for the absence and an investigation needs to happen.
  • Because every year, some pupils ‘con’ their parents in order to stay off.
  • Because we may be aware of something that may make an absence more likely but parents would not know, for example, he / she has coursework due in, or has a detention that day, or his / her least favourite lesson is that day / or that his / her best friend(s) is off.

Why do you ask us to send pupils in and later send them home?

Often pupils pick up once they are with friends. Also, because our lessons are 100 minutes long, pupils miss so much in one day’s absence. Many pupils come in for one lesson and when it is clear they cannot continue, they collect the work from the other lessons too so that they do not fall behind.   

Why should a pupil who is one minute late receive a detention?

We have to draw a line somewhere. We are trying to teach pupils to organise their time so that they arrive with time to spare rather than aim to arrive at the last possible minute. Having worked in many schools, I have learned that the same pupils will come in at or about the time that the detention is given. Registration starts at 8.40. We used to give a detention to pupils arriving after 8.45 so a group of pupils arrived at 8.46 and argued that they were only 1 minute late, (when in reality they were 6 minutes late). In effect we were saying that it was OK to be late. That was the wrong message. When we moved the late time to 8.40 the same pupils arrived at 8.41. We are trying to teach pupils to develop the personal organisational skills that they will need for life. If they have a job they will need to be there before the start time. We tell pupils therefore that they are expected in school by 8.35 and will be marked late after 8.40.  95% of pupils meet in the dining room at or before 8.30 and only about 10 pupils arrive after that time. As with attendance, the fact that your son or daughter knows that late arrival will be followed up means that they will not be tempted to join friends who want to go somewhere else on the way.

I am happy to discuss this further.  If you would like to do so, please send a question by email to tony.packwood@macclesfieldacademy.org.