Jun 21, 2019

  • £450,000 Opportunity Area funding to boost attendance in Hastings and St Leonards’ schools
  • Education Secretary praises town-wide approach
  • Indra Morris (Above), Director of the Department for Education, addresses senior leaders from schools and colleges in Hastings and St Leonards.

On Friday 21st June, schools across Hastings and St Leonards launched a town-wide attendance charter as part of a £450,000 range of initiatives to support young people and children in getting to school so they have the best start in life.

Nearly one hundred attendees including senior leaders from schools and colleges, and key community organisations heard from speakers at a launch event including Indra Morris, Director General for the Department for Education, Police Inspector Olivia Carroll, and Beth Armstrong Deputy Head of ISEND (Inclusion Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) at East Sussex County Council.

The Charter, spearheaded by the Hastings Opportunity Area, was signed by every school in Hastings and St Leonards who are able to and commits to a unified approach to attendance. By signing it, school and college leaders and governors agree to work together to implement the town’s high expectations for attendance, backed up with support from East Sussex County Council.

Families will also be helped with improved access to support services for other issues, such as health or housing, which may be acting as a barrier to attendance. Evidence shows that every extra day of school missed can affect a pupil’s chances of achieving good GCSEs, which has a lasting impact on their life chances.

While local schools already have robust policies in place, this is the first time they have joined forces to agree a united approach. It includes closing their register 30 minutes after the start of the school day, contacting parents or carers on the first day of absence, refusing to authorise holidays in term time unless for a good reason such as a funeral and for schools to liaise where children from the same or linked families attend so there is a shared approach where attendance is a concern.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: “High quality education and pastoral care make a real difference to a child’s ability to make the most of their opportunities, but of course this only works if a child is present at school. No child should be absent from school without good reason and this town-wide approach in Hastings is a great initiative to make sure young people are in school with access to a good education.”

It also sets out a commitment to engaging parents, carers and the community in tackling pupils who are persistently absent, as well as inspiring children to attend school through an engaging curriculum, amongst other principles.

As part of the initiative, The Department for Education (DfE) is also funding 14 projects submitted by schools to boost attendance, through the Hastings Opportunity Area (HOA) – a programme to help young people in the town fulfil their potential through education.

The funding will benefit thousands of children across the town. Key workers will support families who struggle to get their children to school at All Saints and Dudley, Baird and Ore Village Primary Academy. They’ll work with the Education Futures Trust (EFT) to make sure families can overcome barriers to attendance by accessing services around any other issues they may be facing, such as housing, parenting or health.

The University of Brighton is using the support of an Education Welfare Officer, an expert in promoting attendance, to train teachers and other school staff in strategies, in early identification of pupils at risk of low attendance and supporting families in seven local primary schools and two secondary schools.

School minibuses will help parents and carers get their children to school and to breakfast clubs at Christchurch CE Primary School and Ark Castledown and after school transport at Torfield and Saxon Mount means pupils can take part in enrichment activities, funded by HOA.

One of 14 projects funded by the HOA enables a minibus to assist with pupil travel at Christchurch Primary Academy.

Richard Meddings, Chair of HOA’s independent Partnership Board, said: “Attending school regularly is vital for children to fulfil their potential.

“We’re excited that schools, children’s services and families across Hastings are working together to promote good attendance for all children and that Hastings Opportunity Area funding will help provide that extra support for families who need it.”

The Hastings Opportunity Area is committed to improving attendance in the town over the next two years. The ambition is to tackle the challenge of attendance at primary by reducing the number of persistent absentees from 850 to 539 pupils, a reduction of 311 pupils, based on 2018 data, and at secondary reducing from 611 to 501 pupils, a reduction of 110 pupils.

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