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Investigation uncovers scores of kids missing weeks of school
HUNDREDS of pupils missed classes at Swindon schools and academies over the last academic year – including more than 90 who failed to show up for three weeks.
A total of 310 pupils were registered by the council as Children Missing Education (CME).
Pupils moving out of the borough and unauthorised absences, such as holidays and illnesses which have not been reported to schools, accounted for 216 of the cases.
However, another 94 children were out for 20 continuous school days, which is the trigger for the involvement of council staff and support teams. The CME policy involves a checklist to be completed if a pupil has been missing from education for five days without any contact.
It includes home visits, contacting other agencies involved with the family, identifying a professional to support the family, contacting other local authorities and legal measures.
The information for the 2011-12 school year was provided by the council after a Freedom of Information Act request by the Adver.
Coun David Renard, cabinet member for children’s services, said: “We have robust systems in place in our schools to deal with truancy and unauthorised absence and this is reflected in Swindon’s persistent absence rate being below the national average.
“However, despite this, we are continually striving to improve attendance levels in our schools.
“More than two thirds of pupils classed as missing from schools in Swindon were either as a result of them moving to other local authorities or due to unauthorised absence. Of the remaining 94 pupils who were out of school for 20 continuous days, some were due to long-term illness.
“When a pupil is absent for five days the council’s education welfare team and the Children Missing Education officer are informed and various actions can be taken, including home visits, liaising with other agencies involved with the family and identifying a lead professional who will offer support.
“Action will also include contacting other local authorities to see if a child has moved out of Swindon, contacting health professionals to verify if a child is sick and, if necessary, taking legal action against parents for unauthorised absence.”
Isambard Community School has a 96 per cent attendance record and has been rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted for preventing absences.
Deputy head for student support Neil Fortune said: “We work together as a school as a whole with teachers and heads of year, working closely with parents who will need support themselves. Any absence is picked up within a few minutes of the school day starting. If children aren’t in school, heads of year go out to talk to families and maybe check on the progress of an illness.
“We also work with outside agencies around Swindon and opened an inclusion centre in September.
“We have seen attendance records improve for children who have joined us from other schools.”
St Joseph’s Catholic College operates a zero-tolerance policy towards unauthorised absences.
A parental support advisor works with families to help them through problems and encourage parents to talk to the school about any difficulties.
Assistant principal Ben Slater said missing three weeks of school was equivalent to missing a grade or a level.
He added: “School time is for school and we have a partnership with our parents to ensure that even if they are under pressure, school attendance remains a priority. We also have a zero-tolerance policy to school time being used for other things, such as holidays.”
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