Agenda item

Attendance and Persistent Absence in Schools

This report provides an overview of attendance in Medway with a particular focus on persistent absence. It clarifies the statutory duties that the council holds in relation to attendance, outlines the strengths and areas for improvement and actions being taken.




The Head of Education Performance introduced the report which provided an overview of attendance in Medway with a particular focus on persistent absence.


Members then raised a number of comments and questions, which included:


  • Data - in response to comments that the data in the report were out of date and not in line with the DfE figures on their website which provided data on absence rates for the entirety of the last academic year. Officers said that the data reported for 2020/21 was for the full academic year, the most up to date release of data at the point of writing the report was the autumn 2021 data. The release date for the autumn to spring term would be October 2022 and the release date for the entirety of the 2021/22 full academic year would be March 2023.


A Member further commented on the data limits in the report in comparison to the national data collation and advocated for more up to date data even if it was provisional data. It was asked what the process involved in the reporting of attendance between the Government and the Local Authority. Officers said that the census data that had been filtered, checked and finalised was what was contained in the report, the online DfE data was provisional and subject to change.


  • Mental Health - it was commented that the issue could only be looked at in context with wider issues and whilst the presenting issue may be attendance, there were wider underlying issues that had to be addressed.  Officers agreed that more work needed to be done to support families as well as schools and this was an area that was being looked into as part of the task and finish group review.


  • Fines – it was noted that Medway absence figures had increased by 23.5% and it was asked if there were resources in place to issue more fines in the coming academic year, due to the increase in persistent absence rates which remained a problem in schools. The number of Penalty Charge Notice had declined significantly whilst there was a distinct increase in absence. Officers said that they worked closely with schools to ensure that they had the necessary evidence to initiate a prosecution on their behalf. During the pandemic, prosecutions were not possible and there were still backlogs that needed to be addressed as prosecutions that had been delayed were still being dealt with. It was anticipated that there would be an increase in prosecutions due to the growing rate of persistent absence.


  • Alternative Provision – concern was raised for young people in alternative provision as their absence from school could be attributed to other factors. It was asked whether a fuller report would be provided in the issues experienced and if the task and finish group would address this as part of the review. The officer said that the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) green paper posed the question on how young people were supported and a review of the alternative provision system in Medway would commence from September 2022. Once the review had been conducted, a report would be brought before the Committee.


  • Profound and Multiple Learning Difficulties (PMLD) - there was concern that nationally the absence figures for children with PMLD was lower than Medway’s figures and it was asked what the reason was for this. The officer said that data with the breakdown with overall absence was in relation to the one Medway school that caters for children with that need. During the pandemic they were severely impacted by Covid, and the absence rate was impacted. Whilst it would appear that the percentage was significantly higher when compared nationally, the data had to be looked at in the context that it was for one school. It was essential to liaise with other attendance team leads to analyse data and the barriers that schools have with issues with persistent absence.




The Committee noted the report


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