Over the last 12 months, the Hastings Opportunity Area has been working with young people, parents and schools to tackle the borough’s long standing issues around attendance. In 2016, Hastings had the lowest overall rate of attendance in primary schools in the whole of England.
This week the HOA is launching a positive marketing campaign raising awareness of the importance of attendance. The campaign, which was designed in partnership with families and young people, focuses in particular on children missing school for minor illnesses or term time holidays. There is a clear link between poor attendance and low academic achievement, with a 2016 Department for Education Report finding that missing school even for just a few days per year can damage a pupil’s chances of gaining good GCSE’s.
“Attending school regularly is vitally important for all pupils as each missed day significantly sets back a pupil’s progress and makes it harder for them to keep up with new things being taught,” said Richard Meddings, chair of the Hastings Opportunity Area. “Clearly there are many occasions when children can’t attend due to illness or hospital appointments, but we’ve found that parents can be over cautious with minor illnesses such as coughs or colds.”
“We are also aware, through talking to parents and schools, that too many parents are still taking their children out of school for holidays during term times, in the belief that their children aren’t missing anything important. Our research amongst young people suggests they don’t want to fall behind with class work, miss out on end of term activities, or to be away from their friends.” The adverts features the character Percy the Seagull as well as pupils from Hastings & St Leonards, and will include posters in all schools, various community settings and adverts on local station More Radio.
The campaign is part of a wide and diverse programme of work by the Hastings Opportunity Area aiming to improve attendance across the borough. 2019 saw the creation of The Hastings Attendance Charter, which has seen all schools working collaboratively and adopting a uniform approach regarding attendance. The Hastings Opportunity area has also funded a number of projects in schools themselves to support families who might otherwise struggle with getting their children to school on time and as often as possible. These include transport and breakfast clubs, attendance key workers who can support struggling families, additional education welfare support workers and other specialist staff, and providing a range of support for those children who may struggle to attend school regularly.