Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Pupil attendance 1

Three weeks ago I was astonished, in truth offended, when we received a call from a parent, in response to a truancy call from our automated parent alert technology, to inform us that her daughter would be off school for the next two weeks as they were going to take advantage of a last minute deal for a holiday in Malta. The fact that the girl concerned was in S3 and in the middle of her S3 exams mattered not a jot. I readily acknowledge that it has been a long winter but I despair when parents choose to take their children off school for 'casual' holidays.

One of the priorities for us in the coming months will be to reduce pupil absenteeism. Currently at Liberton High School, the average attendance is around 90%. In terms of days per pupil this amounts to almost twenty days lost each year. This was one of the main areas for action identified by HMIe in 2006, but, disappointingly, our attendance figures have barely improved over the past two years. In life beyond school, whether it is in a place of further learning or employment, absences of this magnitude would not be tolerated. Why then should we accept this in schools? Should we direct additional (limited) resources to 'supporting' families where attendance is a problem?

The reasons for such high levels of absence aren't easily explained. In truth, neither is it clear as to what actions we should take as a school to impact positively on this area of concern. One thing, however, is very clear to me: The status quo is not an option. Over the coming year I am determined that we will tackle this area with vigour. In the next few posts I intend to develop further what we plan to do in this area. Suggestions from others will be welcomed.

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