Governors Put School Absences Under The Spotlight

school_2104_4Five Island School governors have asked the head teacher why pupil attendance rates aren’t improving.

The national target is 96% but the school failed to meet that in the autumn term, with 95% attendance, dropping to 94% in the spring term.

But Chair of Governors, Ben Julian, says there are many unique factors affecting this in Scilly.

He says the tourism economy here means that many families can’t take holidays during the usual summer season.

And problems with travel, especially over winter, means a simple weekend or medical trip to the mainland can result in delays and missed school days.

Storms can also stop off-island children getting to St Mary’s for their studies.

On top of that, the small numbers involved mean that a bout of illness can also affect the figures.

Ben says head teachers used to be able to authorise up to ten days absence from school for each child every year before parents were referred to the Education Authority.

He said this meant a culture developed where parents could arrange a family holiday during a shorter school vacation and use the extra agreed time to cover any additional travel time.

Last September, the government stopped this from happening, but Ben says some families already had holidays booked.

He feels the absentee rate will eventually get better because of the new rules.

Ben says the school needs to be mindful of the factors affecting attendance but not use them as an excuse for underlying poor attendance.

He says they need to work sensitively with parents and carers to help them understand the importance of strong attendance on children’s education.

And he says they’re also exploring what the school can do to facilitate good attendance within Scilly’s unique local context.

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