Increasing attendance at Swindon’s schools is the highest priority of the council’s education team councillors were told - and they are to consider whether breaking from traditional school hours in some settings may help that.

Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet member for education Councillor Adorabelle Shaikh said attendance levels in the borough are too low.

In a report to the authority’s overview and scrutiny committee, she said: “Attendance performance remains a concern especially in secondary schools and specialist settings with secondary schools identifying attendance concerns especially in Years 10 and 11, and the associated risk of those children then not moving into Education, training or employment.”

Councillor Daniel Adams raised the possibility of schools in the borough looking at a different model of attendance from the traditional Monday to Friday, 9am to 3pm.

He asked: “What are we doing about addressing the issue of attendance. I have been told of a hybrid model that a school is being brought in, where a pupil might attend for one or two or three days a week, but take other lessons online at home.

“Is that something we might look at?"

Cllr Adams was referring to private schools run by Duke’s Education where pupils will be expected to attend at least one day a week for practical lessons and sports and social activities, and then take four live lessons online and two independent study sessions per day for the rest of the week.

Cllr Shaikh was initially unsure: “This is a difficult one, there’s no one right or wrong way.”

Cllr Shaikh cited a pupil moving up from primary school to secondary and struggling, and wondered whether a hybrid model might work in that case.

But she accepted Cllr Adams' offer to send her details and said the education department would look at the idea.

Cllr Adams said: “Given the number of long-term absenteeisms in our local schools we need to look outside the box and see if we can offer a wider spectrum of learning that take into account the different styles of learning and reduce the numbers missing out on schooling.”

Another councillor Vijay Manro asked at what stage the council decided to prosecute parents for their children’s truancy.

The council’s director of education, inclusion and skills Annette Perrington said court action was very much a last resort.

She said: "Schools ask us to issue Fixed Penalty Notices if attendance falls below 85 per cent where there is a trend for persistent absence.”

Cllr Manro, who has also served as a magistrate, said he had heard from parents who told him that they tried to get their child to school but had to go to work, and their child would just stay away: “What can we do to help parents like this?”

Ms Perrington responded: “A prosecution would only come after an FPN and only if a parent was not actively seeking to get their child to schools and only if it was in the best interests of the child.”

She added: “Teenagers will be teenagers and we do have sympathy for those parents who might struggle to get them to attend.”

In the last school year, Swindon Borough Council handed out 2,161 penalty notices – 1,476 for unauthorised family holidays, 23 for lateness, and 662 for other uncategorised reasons.

By comparison, 1,594 fines were issued during the 21-22 school year – 1,341 for term-time holidays and 253 for miscellaneous issues.

It means that the total number of fines increased by 35.5 per cent year on year, with the number of fines for term-time holidays increasing by 10 per cent.