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Attendance Matters: St Helens Borough Council's response to tackling increase in school absences

A report presented and approved at a St Helens Borough Council Cabinet meeting this week highlighted that it's everyone's responsibility to improve primary and secondary school attendance rates.

Primary School Allocations

Article date: 22 June 2023

At a Children and Young People's Scrutiny Committee workshop last year, it was agreed to hold a spotlight review into school attendance in response to absence rates for the 21/22 Autumn term being higher than the regional and national average, with the primary school absence rate standing at 6.7 percent compared to the northwest average of 6.0 percent and 6.2 percent in England.   

Meanwhile, data at secondary school level shows an absence rate of 10.2 percent compared to the northwest average of 8.8 percent and 8.6 percent in England.  

Since then, overall attendance rates have shown an improvement, with St Helens Borough Council taking a proactive approach to ensure this trend continues. 

Taking on board recommendations from the report, senior councillors have approved a six-point action plan to:  

  • Develop a borough-wide culture and expectation that Attendance Matters  
  • Deliver an Attendance Matters campaign every year  
  • Establish a multi-agency Behaviour and Attendance Matters Board and an annual Governors' Forum Attendance item, with training and guidance 
  • Raise the profile of Careers Education and its ability to raise young people's aspirations  
  • Continue a focus on mental and emotional wellbeing   
  • Continue to monitor attendance through reports to Scrutiny  

St Helens Borough Council's Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, Councillor Nova Charlton, said: "There seems to be a culture of thinking it's okay to take children and young people out of school for holidays and that 90 per cent attendance is good when in fact, over five years, that equates to half a year of being absent. 

"As a council, our main priority is to ensure children and young people have a positive start in life which everyone has a role to play - from us as elected members, education leads, teachers, school governors and of course, the parents and carers themselves.  

"Through no fault of their own, children and young people have had their education significantly disrupted over the past few years, largely down to pandemic during which many had to change to home learning. But ultimately, being at school in a proper learning environment with a high level of attendance is essential for pupils to get the most out of their school experience, including attainment, social and emotional wellbeing, as well as future prospects.   

 "I'd like to thank council colleagues for their work in putting this important piece of work together which has been really valuable and I am looking forward to it being implemented to stress the message that attendance matters."