School Attendance Policy And Strategies


Sacred Heart Primary School, Castle Street, Tralee, Co. Kerry.

Roll Number: 16871V

SCHOOL ATTENDANCE POLICY & STRATEGIES – November 2017

Introduction

This attendance policy is set out in accordance with the provisions of the Education Act 1998, the Education (Welfare) Act (2000) and other relevant legislation, Circular Letters issued by the Department of Education & Skills and Statutory Guidelines. The Board of Management trusts that by so doing parents will be assisted in relation to school attendance matters.

Rationale

A child’s right to education as prescribed and protected in Article 42 of the Constitution of Ireland can be realized when she/he attends school on a regular basis and engages with the learning environment. Ensuring that our pupils achieve their potential in all areas of learning and development is our core objective. Regular attendance at school has a very significant impact on a pupil’s success, starting in pre-school and continuing through the primary and secondary school years. Even as children grow older and more independent, families play a key role in making sure they get to school safely every day. It is important that we all understand why attendance is so important for success in school and in life.

Relationship to the Characteristic Spirit of the School

This policy complements the school ethos of nurturing children’s potential in a caring environment where the welfare of each child is paramount.

Aims of Attendance Policy

  • To raise awareness of the importance of regular school attendance.
  • To promote and to foster positive attitudes to learning.
  • To ensure compliance with relevant legislation, circulars and statutory guidelines.
  • To encourage pupils to attend school regularly and punctually.
  • To identify pupils who may be at risk of developing school attendance problems.
  • To ensure that the school has procedures in place to promote attendance and participation.
  • To develop, subject to available resources, links between the school and the families of children who may be at risk of developing attendance problems.
  • To identify and remove, insofar as is practicable, obstacles to school attendance.

CONTENT

Recording and Reporting of Attendance and Non-Attendance

With the introduction of the Primary Online Database (POD), we maintain pupil enrolment and attendance records (Clárleabhar, Leabhar Rolla and Leabhar Tinrimh Laethúil) in electronic format. The school attendance details are recorded on Databiz (the school information management system). Each class teacher records attendance/absence on this system at 10:30am each morning. The reason for absence is also recorded, when the teacher is informed.

A note from parents/guardians is required to explain each absence. Such notes will be retained by the class teacher and will be included in pupils’ individual files at the end of the school year.

Parents/guardians must sign the Attendance Folder in the office if a child is collected early during the school day.

Late arrivals and early departures are also recorded on Databiz by the class teacher.

Parents/guardians are informed in writing on the end-of-year report of the child’s school attendance and punctuality during the school year.

Parents of pupils whose non-attendance is a concern are invited to meet with the Principal during Parent/Teacher meetings and are informed of the school’s concerns.

Attendance Data is monitored by the Attendance Team to identify trends and patterns in attendance, to track the attendance of vulnerable groups or individuals, to monitor attendance targets and to inform annual school planning.

DEIS Targets: 2015-2018

  • The number of pupils absent for 20 + school days during the 2014/15 school year was 86. To reduce this number by 8% each year to June 2018.
  • The number of pupils with full attendance will be increased from the current level of 36 pupils to 40 pupils by June 2018.
  • There were 546 (11%) unexplained absences during the 2014/15 school year. To reduce this to 8% by June 2018.
  • The percentage attendance was 92.4% in 2014/15. To increase this to 93.4% by June 2018.
  • The total number of JI & SI pupils absent for 20+ school days during the 2014/15 school year was 37 (43%). To reduce this number by 10% each year to June 2018.

Punctuality

School is open from 8:50am and children are required to be in their classrooms not later than 9:00am. All pupils and teachers are expected to be on time. The school will contact parents/guardians in the event of pupils being consistently late.

Student Absence Reports

Schools are required to submit Student Absence Reports four times each year on those students with serious attendance issues that have been identified during the current academic year i.e. students falling within the following criteria:

  • a student has been absent from school for a cumulative total of twenty days or more
  • a student's name is to be removed from the school register for any reason
  • a student has been suspended for a cumulative total of six or more days
  • a principal is concerned about a student's attendance
  • the school has expelled a student  

Annual Attendance Report (AAR)

The school is obliged to submit a report to the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) on the levels of attendance at the end of each academic year. Schools are required to provide the following data in the AAR:

  1. Total number of days lost through student absence in the entire school year.
  2. Total number of students who were absent for 20 days or more during the school year.
  3. Total number of students expelled in respect of whom all appeal processes have been exhausted or not availed of during the school year.
  4. Total number of students who were suspended for any number of days during the school year.

Whole School Strategies to Promote Attendance

The Board of Management is committed to fostering a positive school atmosphere, which is conducive to promoting good school attendance. In this regard:

  • The school curriculum, insofar as is practicable, is flexible and relevant to the needs of the individual child.
  • The school will promote development of good self-concept and self-worth in the children.
  • Support for pupils, who have special educational needs, is in place in accordance with Department of Education & Skills guidelines.
  • Pupils with a poor attendance record will, insofar as is practicable, be supported in an effort to improve their attendance.
  • Parents/guardians are consulted in drafting and reviewing policies with the aim of promoting a high-level of co-operation among the school community.
  • The teaching staff collaborates in the planning and implementation of the primary school curriculum, so as to provide a stimulating learning environment for all pupils.
  • While every effort is made to promote and expect punctuality, a child who arrives late will be welcomed by teacher. Consistent lack of punctuality will be discussed with parents and improvement sought.
  • New entrants and their parents/guardians are invited to engage in an induction process, through which the school’s policies and procedures in relation to attendance are explained. There is a focus on the value of regular attendance and on the importance of developing good attendance habits from Junior Infants onwards.
  • Sacred Heart Primary School’s Homework Policy clearly outlines the school’s expectations in terms of the quantity of homework assigned and in the quality of homework presented. There is a consistent approach to homework throughout the school.
  • The calendar for the coming school year is published annually in September and is available on the website throughout the year. It is hoped that this approach will enable parents/guardians to plan family events around school closures, thus minimizing the chances of non-attendance related to family holidays during the school term.
  • Pupils are expected to wear the correct school uniform. Should a pupil not have the school uniform a note of explanation from parents is required. When continual non-compliance with the uniform requirement occurs, a uniform may be given to the pupil until the issue is resolved.
  • Parents/guardians are informed if a child has no lunch. Parents/guardians will be directed to the school lunch order form on www.carambola.ie   a free lunch scheme available to all students in Sacred Heart Primary.
  • The Principal, with assistance from class teachers, will present award certificates to pupils who have full attendance at the end of the school year. Certificates are also available to pupils who improve their attendance over a short period of time, and to pupils who improve their overall attendance.
  • Individual attendance folders are used for particular children, whose attendance is a concern, to encourage improvement.
  • School Completion Programme – Through SCP a target list of children at risk is drawn up. The Principal has responsibility for monitoring the attendance and general welfare of these children.
  • The HSCL Coordinator will visit the homes of families where children have a poor school attendance record.
  • The importance of attendance is highlighted in all classes.
  • Teachers have high expectations of pupil attendance.
  • The importance of school attendance is noted regularly in school newsletters and copies of Tusla’s Educational Welfare Services’ leaflet entitled “Don’t Let Your Child Miss Out” is made available to parents.
  • A range of extra-curricular activities is organized to improve participation in school life. Basketball, Football, Volleyball, Choir, Speech & Drama, Music, Swimming.
  • There is a Pupil of the Month award for pupils in classes 3rd to 6th.
  • An After-School Club is organized on Monday to Thursday.
  • A Breakfast Club is organized for a small number of target pupils each morning.
  • Equality of participation is a central part of the philosophy of Presentation education. No child should miss school or other event due to lack of money. Teachers are encouraged to be mindful of this issue if a pupil is reluctant to go somewhere or is missing on a particular day.

Guidance for Parents

Section [(21) (9)] of the Act states that: “a pupil’s absence can only be authorised by the Principal when the child is involved in activities organised by the school or in which the school is involved.” The school principal cannot authorise a child’s absence for holidays during school time. However, it is essential that parents inform the school of such arrangements.

Reasons for pupils’ absences must be communicated in writing, by parents/guardians to the school and will be retained by the school. To facilitate this, pre-printed notes are included in the Homework Diaries for First to Sixth Class pupils. A Booklet which includes Absence Notes is made available to all parents of Junior and Senior Infants. When a child returns to school after an absence, he/she should present a note to the class teacher explaining the absence. These notes will form a record, which may be inspected by the Education Welfare Officer.

Parents/guardians can promote good school attendance by:

  • Ensuring regular and punctual school attendance.
  • Notifying the school if their children cannot attend for any reason.
  • Working with the school and Education Welfare Service to resolve any attendance problems.
  • Making sure their children understand that parents support the school and good attendance.
  • Discussing planned absences with the school.
  • Refraining, if at all possible, from taking holidays during school time.
  • Showing an interest in their children’s school day and their children’s homework.
  • Encouraging them to participate in school activities.
  • Praising and encouraging their children’s achievements.
  • Instilling in their children, a positive self-concept and a positive sense of self-worth.
  • Informing the school in writing of the reasons for absence from school.
  • Ensuring, insofar as is possible, that children’s appointments (with dentists etc), are arranged for times outside of school hours.
  • Contacting the school immediately, if they have concerns about absence or other related school matters.
  • Notifying the school, in writing, if their child/children, particularly children in junior classes, are to be collected by someone not known to the teacher.
  • Pupils have the clear responsibility to attend school regularly and punctually.
  • Pupils should inform staff if there is a problem that may lead to their absence.
  • Pupils are responsible for promptly passing on absence notes from parents to their class teacher.
  • Pupils are responsible for passing school correspondence to their parents, on the specified day.

The Pupils

The School Principal

The School Principal will:

  • Ensure that the school register of pupils is maintained in accordance with regulations.
  • Comply with the provisions of the Education (Welfare) Act 2000 regarding reporting procedures to the NEWB.
  • Inform parents of a decision to contact the Education Welfare Officer of concerns regarding a pupil.
  • Insofar as is practicable, promote the importance of good school attendance among pupils, parents and staff.

The Class Teacher

The class teacher will:

  • Record attendance details on Databiz each day.
  • Keep a record of explained and unexplained absences.
  • Include Absence Notes in the pupil’s file at the end of the school year.
  • Contact parents in instances where absences are not explained in writing.
  • Promote a reward system for pupils with good / improved attendance – certificates.
  • Encourage pupils to attend regularly and punctually.
  • Inform the Principal of concerns she/he may have regarding the attendance of any pupil.

Communication

The school has developed a good relationship with the local National Education Welfare Board (NEWB) personnel and there is ongoing communication in relation to children who are at risk. Our HSCL co-ordinator works closely with Principal and staff in monitoring attendance.

The HSCL co-ordinator works with parents in developing programmes to promote good home-school relationships. These programmes aim to minimise the risks of irregular or non-attendance and to maximise the opportunities provided for parents and pupils.

The school maintains communication with local pre-schools and second-level schools in order to make the transition for pupils as easy as possible.

A Transition Programme is organized for sixth class pupils in Term 3 to ensure a smooth transition to secondary school.

The Education Passport Material (NCCA) for each sixth class pupil is forwarded to the relevant secondary school following confirmation of enrolment. The Passport includes information on attendance.

Strategies to address Poor Attendance

  • We recognize that some pupils will need extra support in order to prevent patterns of poor attendance developing. The school’s approach will involve tailoring whole-school approaches noted above to group or individual need. These include:

o   Transitions: Paying particular attention to attendance among pupils making the transition to or from the school.

o   Monitoring: Keeping a regular check on the attendance of vulnerable pupils and intervening if patterns of poor attendance emerge.

o   Rewards: Using an attendance booklet with rewards and incentives to motivate and encourage individual pupils. This year we are focusing on five pupils in particular with a view to achieving a significant improvement in attendance.

o   Curriculum: Differentiating the curriculum to make it accessible to individual pupils.

o   Extra-Curricular Activities: Identifying particular activities that may motivate individual pupils and encourage attendance.

  • Attendance levels are monitored on a weekly basis. A Text Message is sent to parents when there is a concern about a pupil’s attendance.

o   Text sent to parents when a child is absent for 10 days,

o   Text sent to parents when a child is absent for 15 days and

o   Text and Letter to parents when a child is absent for 20 days.

  • Children who are absent for 20 school days or more are included in the school’s regular reports to the NEWB (there are four reports during the school year).
  • The HSCL co-ordinator will make contact with parents/guardians and offer support.
  • Parents will be invited to discuss the reason for the absences with the Principal.
  • The Education Welfare Officer (EWO) will be contacted and a Pre-Referral Form will be submitted (See Appendix 2).
  • In such cases the Education Welfare Officer (following all reasonable efforts by the Education Welfare Board to consult with the child’s parents and the Principal of the school) may serve a ‘School Attendance Notice’ on any parent who he/she concludes is failing or neglecting to cause the child to attend the school. A successful case taken against the parent may result in a fine and/or imprisonment.
  • An annual report is submitted to Tusla detailing the overall level of attendance at the school during that school year.
  • The principal reports to the Board of Management regularly regarding attendance issues.

Transfer to Another School

Under Section 20 of the Education (Welfare) Act (2000), the Principal of a child’s current school must notify the Principal of the child’s previous school that the child is now registered in their school.

When a Principal receives notification that a child has been registered elsewhere he/she will notify the Principal of the pupil’s new school, of any problems in relation to attendance at the pupil’s former school and of such matters relating to the child’s educational progress as he or she considers appropriate. This applies to pupils who transfer between primary schools and to pupils who transfer from primary to post primary school.

Success Criteria

The following will provide some practical indicators of the success of this policy:

  • An increase in annual attendance rates
  • Board of Management, Staff and Parent/Guardian awareness of their legal obligations under the Education (Welfare) Act 2000
  • Positive parental feedback
  • Teacher vigilance

Roles and Responsibilities

It is the responsibility of the Principal and staff to implement this policy under the guidance of the school’s Board of Management.

The School Attendance Policy & Strategies was ratified by the Board of Management of Sacred Heart Primary School at its meeting held on 20th November 2017

The School Attendance Policy & Strategies was submitted to Tusla on 5th December 2017.

This policy will be reviewed annually or as the need arises.