Improving attendance at Hillocks Primary School
Louise Regan, head teacher at Hillocks Primary School in Nottinghamshire has improved attendance, increased parental engagement and raised awareness using a variety of strategies including the use of a school attendance messaging system called Truancy Call from Contact Group which they use to send out automatic text-based reminders to parents if their child is late or absent.
Hillocks Primary School in Nottinghamshire has 350 pupils aged 3-11 and is situated in an area of above average unemployment. Upon joining as head teacher in 2001, I quickly identified attendance as a key issue. The school is located in an area of social disadvantage and there is a lot of social housing and high unemployment and this has had an effect on the school attendance at the school.
Upon joining, attendance was around 92% which is well below the national average of 95%. We had a lot of children that were regularly missing school and a minority of parents that did not recognise that ensuring children were in school was a priority.
We decided to implement a range of strategies and policies to engage with the hard to reach parents. We made a decision that attendance had to become a priority and we started monitoring attendance on a weekly basis to develop strategies - not just at the end of each half term as had been the case before.
Some of the ideas have included certificates, prizes and rewards for both children and parents for 100 per cent attendance. We do quite a lot of individual rewards for good attendance and children are much more engaged now there is the element of competition.
We decided that we needed more contact with parents because at primary school age, it is often the parents that bring the children to school. We tried reaching them by phone and often couldn’t get through or they didn’t answer which resulted in quite a bit of time being used to get in touch with them. We also wrote letters and arranged meetings but then we heard about a school attendance text-based messaging system called Truancy Call from Contact Group and rang to find out more.
Response rates have been much better than those achieved by phoning as a lot of parents are very active on their mobiles, we know they have received it and they have the option of sending a message back. The idea that you can send a text to all parents in seconds alerting them that their child is absent is great.
Results in improved attendance
Since the new attendance strategy was implemented school attendance has risen and in 2014 our attendance was 96%. We have improved attendance by engaging with children, parents and teachers to ensure they are aware of the importance of good attendance. We recognise that in order to maintain this we need to continue the work that we are doing.
Our strategies have raised awareness about the importance of attendance with the children, parents and teachers. The community is much more aware that attendance is a key priority and that it is important from a learning perspective that children are in school every day. Attendance has improved and everyone understands that as a result of this children’s performance will also improve.
We work with individual families on attendance and punctuality and have a late gate and a register to monitor children’s late arrivals. When we first introduced our attendance strategy we focused on getting the children to attend school and then worked on punctuality when that had improved.
We have improved attendance and raised awareness that it is a priority. As a result, we have seen an improvement in attendance.
Our governors regularly request an update on attendance and we can show them the work that goes in and the results. The system has improved responses from parents and saved us a lot of time following up when they don’t answer. We know they have received the text because we get a notification and it makes parents think that they do need to get their children into school.
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