Action plan to stop Doncaster youngsters skipping school

Education
Education

Doncaster education bosses have launched a bid to slash the number of children who skip school in the borough.

Doncaster council’s cabinet has approved tough new measures after figures were presented revealing the extent of the problem.

Bosses have drawn up an ‘attendance strategy’ which will include a borough-wide campaign stressing the importance of attendance and highlighting the risks missing school creates of poor performance.

It will look to identify schools persistently below national average, and support and challenge them.

The strategy would offer help to school leaders and try to help them reduce fixed term exclusions.

Council officers have been working with schools since October and expect to continue into 2019. They hope to see an improvement within the first year.

It comes as Doncaster is set to get £6 million over three years as a Government social mobility opportunity area.

A report said: “Whilst children are not attending school they are of much greater risk of harm and this presents a genuine safeguarding risk. For individual citizens there is great risk of longer term problems with employability, engagement and poverty. Reversing this trend is a priority activity.”

Only three schools in Doncaster perform better than average for persistent absenteeism and 17 had persistent absenteeism affecting 20 per cent of pupils.

Figures from Autumn 2016 show levels of persistent absence more than 20 per cent at Outwood Adwick 20.6; Trinity 20.9; de Warrene 22; Don Valley 24.3; Ash Hill 25.3; XP 26.7; Mexborough 30.3; and Balby Carr 30.8.

A previous cabinet report raised the issue of persistent absence at primary schools.

It showed figures more than 20 per cent at several at the time.

They included Hexthorpe 20.1; St Mary’s 20.8; Grange Lane 22.2; West Road 22.4; Hillside 22.6; Waverley 22.7; Toll Bar 31.9; Moss Road Infants 33.3 and Holy Family 34.2.

The national average is 8.2 per cent.

Cabinet member for education Coun Nuala Fennelly said: “It is not just about parents, it’s about partnerships.

“I’m a great believer that you should make children go to school as they need to go to school. We need to make sure that parents make sure they do go to school. I think it will make parents understand why their children need to go to school.”

Council director of education Damien Allen said children who did not attend school enough did not achieve the outcomes that were hoped for.

He said: "We also have to recognise is a result of management of attendance.

"Where we don't have maintained schools, we are ratcheting up pressure on academies.

"We've sent letters to schools, and can escalate it to the regional schools commissioner. There are sanctions that can be applied like referring to Ofsted for unannounced inspections."

Mayor Ros Jones said: “It is a responsibility of schools ensuring that children get the best start in life possible that they only get from attending school.”