Des Bird, interim Head of Secondary Education, on learning from others to improve attendance.

Like most Multi Academy Trusts, CET has placed great emphasis on what happens in the classroom, and rightly so. Last year we became increasingly concerned that, post-pandemic, large numbers of our children were simply not attending regularly enough for them to properly progress through the curriculum. It simply doesn’t matter how good the teaching is, if the children aren’t in school, they aren’t learning. It is a big problem.

CET weren’t alone. On average, on any given day almost 1 in 10 children were missing from school in the secondary sector nationally, and primary attendance across the country was at an all-time low. The negative impact on learning is immense, with every missed day greatly limiting the student’s chance of success at the end of any key stage. As an example, research has shown that for every 17 schools days missed, a student’s GCSE performance will on average decline by one grade.

To tackle this issue, CET joined a DFE sponsored Attendance Hub, led by North Shore Academy. North Shore Academy serves a community in the North East with high levels of deprivation, but they have left no stone unturned in their quest for excellent attendance – and their approach works.  They have been generous in sharing their resources and ideas, and at CET we have begun to embrace what is a significant change in the culture around attendance.

Since the beginning of this academic year, attendance has been made to be a clear priority for all schools, being discussed regularly at CET’s Leadership Team meetings.

A tremendous amount of hard work has gone into improving attendance across the Trust, and we aren’t finished yet.  Fundamentally, we recognise the importance of this work in improving the life chances of all of our young people.

We have begun to implement a new cross Trust strategy and approach to supporting attendance and reducing absence, which is based on a series of national research and is underpinned by seven core principles.

  • Education, Expectation and Aspiration
  • Celebration, Praise and Recognition
  • Monitoring
  • Regular Contact and Early Intervention
  • Facilitation of Support
  • Formalisation of Support
  • Enforcement

The approach focuses heavily on early intervention and early daily response to absence.

We have raised the profile and increased communication with all stakeholders on attendance and absence, and are employing a strategic and collaborative approach across each of our schools. Every single member of staff has a role to play.

Enhanced regular communication with parents and carers is driving down absence.

The impact has been significant, with CET secondary schools all showing year to date attendance above the national average for the first time and, similarly, attendance in our primary schools averaging well above the national average.

Des Bird