of all the key elements to achieving well at school, attendance has to be the most basic. Unless students are in school we can’t teach them; when absent they miss out on learning. You have to be in it to win it.
We’ve been making year-on-year improvements to attendance at my school for the past few years, but this progress seems to have stalled recently and we need to improve further. As part of my thinking about parental engagement, I decided to ask parents and carers for advice on getting kids to school regularly and on time. After all, it’s parents who have to do this, so who better to ask than those who have been successful? This, and a bit of additional research has led to the following advice:
Top Ten Tips for Attendance
- Establish basic routines, like waking up time, that will help your child develop good attendance habits.
- Get everything ready for school the night before: uniform, homework, PE kit, packed lunch, etc., so that your child has everything they need for the day. Check if there are any letters from school and anything that needs a signature.
- Talk to your child regularly about why going to school every day is important. Set a good example yourself, so your child can see your own commitment to being on time for work and appointments.
- Avoid making routine medical or dental appointments during the school day.
- Look up the NHS guidelines about when a sick child should be kept off school and when they should attend. Generally, if they have a fever, diarrhoea and/or vomiting, or certain infectious illnesses, they should be at home, but coughs, colds, aches & pains are not a reason to miss school.
- Make an emergency plan for who will ensure your child gets to school if you can’t, for example if another of your children is ill. Agree this with someone now: you might be able to help each other out in a crisis.
- Let school know if something happens that means your child will have a problem getting to school on time (for example, your car won’t start, or a bus is late).
- If your child is absent, work with their teachers to make sure they catch up with the work they missed. Their form tutor will usually be the best point of contact.
- If your child starts being reluctant to go to school, find out why and work with teachers to sort out any issues. Just keeping them away will not resolve anything.
- Get involved with school. Support school events and perhaps join the PTA. When your children see that you are taking time to get involved, they will take school more seriously too.
Much of this may seem obvious, but I think there is something to think about in the list for most people. For example, I hadn’t thought of making an advance plan for getting my own kids to school if there was a problem.
We received quite a lot of other advice about encouraging teenagers to get out of bed in the morning. This included putting the (very loud) alarm clock out of reach, turning the lights on, and giving a running countdown of time left before having to leave for school. As for buckets of cold water: deary, deary me…
I hope you find these top ten tips useful; if you want to use them, please feel free to do so. Comments are always welcome and if you have any more tips, I’d love to hear them.