To receive a report from the Director for Education Standards, Quality, and Performance.
The Director Education Standards, Quality and Performance went through a presentation which summarised the report circulated as part of the agenda. The Presentation showed attendance levels of Trafford Children were a lot better than the national average and Trafford’s statistical neighbours. The Committee were informed of the amount of learning lost for different percentages of attendance with 80% being over 7 weeks of learning lost over the course of a year and that attendance was used as a key performance indicator within Trafford’s Children’s services, particularly for early help. This reflected the Council’s approach that it was everyone’s responsibility to improve attendance as the impacts of missed school days had been shown to be wide ranging.
The Government had released new guidance the 6th of May 2022 which, while being non-statutory, highlighted good practice for schools and authorities. The key elements of the guidance were proactive attendance management, having accurate data, having evidence-based interventions, having attendance expertise within schools and local authorities, and the need to proactively remove out of school barriers. In response to the guidance Trafford had a School Attendance Support Team which provided all schools with support around communications and advice, targeting support meetings, and multi-disciplinary support for families free of charge.
The Pupil Absence Team Leader went over the legal interventions around attendance. The Committee were assured that legal interventions were seen as the last resort. The Committee were then informed of the preferred options (which included covered fixed-penalty notices, parenting orders, and parenting contracts) and how they were utilised. Trafford had issued 663 notices in the previous year and over 550 of those related to holidays being taken during term time. The Council did not issue many prosecutions and all of them were for non-payment of penalty notices. Parenting Orders were occasionally added by magistrates’ court after a prosecution, which often required parent attendance at parent sessions and did not tend to be used very often. The was a large drive for Supervision orders to be used but they were not used very often within Trafford.
The Director Education Standards, Quality, and Performance concluded by Informing the Committee that there had been an error in the report that had been circulated and an updated report had been sent to the governance officer to be published after the meeting.
Following the presentation Councillor Blackburn asked whether there was any pattern among children with separated parents when they were with one parent rather than the other. The Pupil Absence Team Leader responded that analysis had not been done but it would be possible once the level of data increased. The Director Education Standards, Quality and Performance added that a cross agency group had discussed children with regular absence and the possible support that could be provided. The Director Education Standards, Quality and Performance informed the Committee about the AV1 robots that could be used to aid young people who were not able to attend class in person to attend virtually instead. Councillor Blackburn added that she had raised her question as there was one young person with one parent who lived out of borough and so struggled to get to school when they were with that parent. The Pupil Absence Team Leader responded that when penalty notices were issued the team would often find such patterns or issues and would work to find appropriate solutions.
The Executive Member for Children’s Services informed the Committee that the start well board had a discussed the impact of the cost-of-living crisis upon children and families and identified a need to monitor whether the crisis impacted children’s attendance through the impact upon children’s health and the impact upon parents’ ability to afford their child’s transport to school. The Pupil Absence Team Leader stated that the Children at Risk of Missing Education (CARME) group, which was a group formed to look at poor attendance, would be looking at children whose attendance record had dropped recently as well as those who fell below the standard threshold. The first CARME meeting was to be held the following day and the Committee were assured that the cost-of-living crisis would be considered.
Councillor Dagnall noted the difficulty in discerning the reasons for absence and asked how many of the young people who had issues were known to the Council. The Pupil Absence Team Leader responded that the Council knew most of the Children who were consistently absent although there were still a number who were unknown. The team were focusing upon the group of children with attendance of 65% and under although the service did look at those with 95% attendance and under, especially those who had higher rates of absence than usual. The Pupil Absence Team Leader stressed the importance of strong data collection by schools to further aid in the identification of pupils who were regularly absent.
Councillor Dagnall asked what support the Council was able to offer schools around attendance. The Director Education Standards, Quality, and Performance informed the Committee about the EWOs and how the service had been stopped due to a lack of funding. The Director Education Standards, Quality, and Performance then spoke of the challenges the Council and schools faced to meet the new requirements from the government, which would need to be met through a multi-agency approach.
Councillor Dagnall asked whether a best practice model could be created for schools to help them structure their approach and whether schools could share staff to fulfil the role. The Pupil Absence Team Leader agreed with the suggestions made by Councillor Dagnall. The Director Education Standards, Quality, and Performance added that the virtual school had a wider responsibility for championing attendance within schools across the borough and work was ongoing to fulfil that role.
Councillor Maitland noted the report mentioned 42 children and 42 schools and asked whether those pupils were spread one from each school. The Director Education Standards, Quality, and Performance responded that out of all the schools that took part in the Trafford Team Together (TTT) those were the ones who were judged to have attendance as an issue. Councillor Maitland then asked how the TTT was progressing. The Director Education Standards, Quality, and Performance responded that the programme was in place in Partington and the North of the borough and would be rolled to all schools by March/April 2023. The Corporate Director of Children’s Services added that it was a tried and tested way of working taken from other authorities and the DFE innovations programme. The TTT brought all the services together to look at what the need was and who was best placed to provide support. Preliminary evaluation of the service within Trafford had shown it to be very effective. Councillor Maitland asked if there were any outcomes available yet. The Director Education Standards, Quality, and Performance responded that she did not have the information to hand but the evaluation report of the could be shared with the Committee.
Councillor Acton noted that there were some areas where attendance definitions could be stretched. Councillor Acton then asked about gypsy and traveller children who often struggled to attend school and how having pupils who struggled to attend for those kinds of reasons impacted schools’ attendance figures. The Pupil Absence Team Leader responded schools did have codes they could use for pupils being absent for those reasons, but it was difficult to ensure that it was not misused or abused by schools or families. The Committee were assured that the Council would always investigate whenever there were high levels of absence to make sure that the reasons given were genuine. The Pupil Absence Team Leader then spoke around the work the team had done specifically around children from gypsy and traveller families attending school.
Councillor Hornby noted the comments that Trafford did not have a system for tracking attendance across all schools in place and asked if one could be purchased. The Director Education Standards, Quality, and Performance responded that there was a free system in place but not all schools used it. The Council were looking to get I-Share and would be working on getting data sharing agreements in place with schools across the borough. The Pupil Absence Team Leader added that they hoped the government would make it mandatory for schools to use the free system.
1) That the update be noted.
2) That the Committee be provided with the Trafford Team Together evaluation report.