A good record of attendance is extremely important for all children, particularly LAC. They may have a history of low academic expectations, poor attendance, many school moves and a lack of opportunity to form and maintain friendships. For some young people, school may be the most consistent and structured place in their lives and a respite from a chaotic home life.
You should encourage attendance by:
- Ensuring that your child has the correct uniform and equipment for school. Help them get into good habits by getting them to pack their school bag the night before, ensuring they have a good breakfast and leave in plenty of time to travel to school.
- Making time to discuss your child’s day and letting them know that you are interested. Being positive about school gives them the message that it’s something important and worthwhile.
- Being aware of and attending important school events eg Sports Day, special assemblies, productions, parents evenings etc
- Knowing who the key staff in school are e.g your child’s class teacher/form tutor, the SENCo, Learning Mentor, Head of Year, Headteacher etc. This will allow you to be able to deal with any issues that occur sensitively and quickly.
- Make medical and dental appointments after school hours whenever possible. If this isn’t feasible, inform school as soon as you can.
- Trying not to arrange holidays during school time. Schools may use their own discretion and authorise absences for special occasions but you need to inform schools as soon as possible. There is absolutely no legal right to have time off school and LAs and schools will be concerned if a pattern of missing school days develops. The Department of Education’s guidance states that “If a child of compulsory school age fails to attend regularly at a school at which they are registered or at a place where alternative provision is provided for them the parents may be guilty of an offence and can be prosecuted by the local authority.” A parent is defined as “Any person who has care of a child or young person i.e. lives with and looks after the child.” It is unlikely that these legal powers would be used against a foster carer but it is a possibility.
If your child is too ill to attend school, inform them straight away and contact them daily thereafter if necessary.
Schools may encourage attendance for LAC by:
- First day calling/texting: Many schools contact parents/carers on the first day of an unexplained absence. This alerts school and carers to potential truanting issues.
- Rewarding good attendance with special assemblies, prize draws etc.
- Giving extra support for vulnerable children, particularly during potentially difficult periods such as transition to secondary school or times of particular emotional upheaval. This will help to reassure them and to feel secure in school.
- Highlighting attendance as an important topic in PEP meetings and LAC reviews.