Attendance Support in Schools

Schools attendance duties are outlined in the DfE guidance Working together to improve school attendance (publishing.service.gov.uk) and Summary table of responsibilities for school attendance 

Attendance Support Team

Cognus’ Attendance Support Team support education settings, children and young people, parents/carers to ensure attendance levels are maintained at appropriate levels. We recognise the importance of working holistically with a family to identify and remove barriers to good attendance and working with our multi-agency network to provide support that may be needed, to aid this work, Sutton has also devised a Graduated Response for attendance.

Schools allocations

All Sutton schools have a named allocated officer, who attends the Termly Targeting Support Meetings and is available for general advice. See here for your allocated officer.

Our Attendance Support Team provides the following core functions

Communication and advice

Termly network meetings

These are an opportunity to bring schools across the area together to communicate messages, provide advice and share best practice between schools and trusts. We also aim to regularly invite services from across the area in order to provide updates and advice on support available for children and families.  

Dates for 23-24:  

Wednesday 29th November 2023, 2:00pm – 4:00pm 

Tuesday 5th March 2024, 2:00pm – 4:00pm 

Wednesday 26th June 2024, 10:30am – 12:30pm 

All network meeting are to be held at Cantium House in Wallington, for further information please contact attendance@cognus.org.uk

Wednesday 29th November 2023, 10:30am – 12:30pm 

Tuesday 5th March 2024, 10:30am – 12:30pm 

Tuesday 25th June 2024, 10:30am – 12:30pm 

All network meeting are to be held at Cantium House in Wallington, for further information please contact attendance@cognus.org.uk

Termly Newsletters

Attendance Policy Content Guide 

As stated in the DfE guidance, an effective whole school culture of high attendance is underpinned by clear expectations, procedures, and responsibilities. To ensure all leaders, staff, pupils, and parents understand these expectations all schools are expected to have a clear, written school attendance policy based on the expectations set out in this guidance. 

Policies should be individual to the school. To support writing your attendance policy we have a content guide Sutton School Attendance Policy Content Guide Sept 2023.docx available for use.  

The policy should be easily accessible to leaders, staff, pupils, and parents, including being published on the school’s website. Parents should be sent it with any initial information when pupils join the school and reminded of it at the beginning of each school year and when it is updated. The DfE expects that as the barriers to attendance evolve quickly, the policy should be reviewed and updated as necessary. In doing so, schools should seek the views of pupils and parents.  

Parenting Contracts 

A parenting contract is a formal written agreement between a parent and the school (with the exception of independent schools and non-maintained special schools) to address irregular attendance at school or alternative provision. A contract is not legally binding but allows a more formal route to secure engagement with support where a voluntary early help plan has not worked or is not deemed appropriate. A parenting contract is not a punitive tool it is intended to provide support and offer an alternative to prosecution. Parents cannot be compelled to enter a contract, and they cannot be agreed in a parent’s absence.  

Attendance contract template Parent contract template.docx is available which has all the key parts that should be included in a contract.  

Targeting Support Meetings

Allocated officers attend termly Targeting Support Meetings with their allocated schools, using attendance data to identify pupils and cohorts at risk of poor attendance and agree targeted actions and access to services for those pupils. 

A Targeting Support Meeting (TSM) is held termly for every school in the borough, with the school’s attendance leads and the allocated officer in attendance. The meeting aims to support attendance by identifying, discussing, and agreeing joint targeted actions for pupils who are persistently or severely absent or those at risk of becoming so. Advice and support is available for recording in registers, accessing services and the wider universal school approaches that effect attendance.  

Ensuring that you are prepared for the meeting is essential to get the most out of it. Schools will be asked by their allocated officer for attendance data prior to the meeting. This will be recorded on the TSM recording document. Having the data prior to the meeting will mean that the time will be spent identifying, discussing and agreeing targeted actions for appropriate pupils.  

Please contact your school’s allocated officer for more information or if you have any questions prior to your meeting, they can also provide you with a blank version of the recording document. 

The meetings are only once a term, and it is important to get the most out of that dedicated time.  

  • Analysing data regularly – have access to attendance data, analysing it so that you are aware of trends and changes which can be discussed and you can highlight children potentially at risk of absence   
  • Preparation – being fully prepared will stop time being spent locating, printing and reading information that could have been completed beforehand. Sending the information requested before the meeting will ensure that your allocated officer will also be prepared for the meeting.  
  • The right people – Having the right people for your school at the meeting will enable targeting actions to be agreed that can be completed.  

Multi-disciplinary support for families 

In addition to continuing to work in partnership with partners in Sutton’s Early Help Service in order to support access to intensive work with families to provide practical whole-family support where needed to tackle the causes of absenteeism and unblock the barriers to attendance, the Attendance Support Team attend the local area Vulnerable Pupil Panels in order to provide attendance advice and support for pupils with complex support needs.  

An Attendance Panel is currently being piloted to serve as a mechanism for schools/partners to gain access to advice and support from multi-agency professionals regardless of whether the case ordinarily meets usual thresholds and receive support to move ‘stuck’ cases forward.

Legal intervention

This is provided where voluntary support has not been successful or engaged with. The Working Together to Improve School Attendance guidance highlights that schools, trusts and local authorities are expected to work together and make use of the full range of legal interventions rather than relying solely on fixed penalty notices or prosecution. It is for individual schools and local authorities to decide whether to use them in an individual case after considering the individual circumstances of a family.  

If it is appropriate in a case to use legal intervention in is important that the parent/s are made aware of their legal responsibilities in relation to their child’s attendance at school.  

In accordance with Section 444(1) of The Education Act 1996, it is a parent’s duty to ensure that they maintain a full and regular school attendance. Failure to do so may result in legal proceedings being instigated against them and if they were found guilty of the same, it is possible that they could be fined up to £2500 and/or receive 3 months imprisonment. Alternatively, a Penalty Notice may be issued to them in the sum of £60.00 if paid within 21 days, increasing to £120.00 if paid after this date, but within 28 days of issue. Should the notice remain unpaid the matter may be placed before the Magistrates court. 

The Attendance Support Team holds responsibility for the following legal interventions: 

  • Parenting contract, together with school Parent contract template.docx There is no obligation on the school or local authority to offer a contract, and it may not be appropriate in every instance, but a contract should always be explored before moving forward to an education supervision order or prosecution. 
  • Issuing of fixed Penalty Notices
  • Prosecution in the Magistrates Court 
  • Education Supervision Orders 

If you would like to discuss this further, please speak to your local authority allocated officer.

Additional Support for schools

In addition to the statutory support we provide to schools, the Attendance Support Team enables schools to purchase a bespoke service tailored to their individual needs. The level and service offer is negotiated between the school/setting and the Attendance Support Team and can include:  

  • Advising on current attendance policies and procedures for ensuring regular and punctual attendance (attendance audits) 
  • Support for all staff in promoting and supporting good attendance to ensure a holistic approach within the school  
  • Presentations on the importance of good attendance and potential impact of poor attendance and punctuality e.g., New Intake parent talks, parent evenings  
  • Support on how to implement good practice and prepare effectively for Ofsted inspections  
  • Small group tutorials for school staff offering advice and support on attendance including legislation, staged intervention processes and procedures  
  • Working with pupils and families and providing a seamless service from the point of referral to improvement or statutory legal intervention  

Details of the traded offer can be found here

Attendance Interventions 

Voluntary, Formal and Statutory Support

Attendance Interventions are broken down into three categories: voluntary, formal and statutory involvement. Our team work with schools to support appropriate consideration of support levels required. Where voluntary support is not having an impact on attendance improvement, schools can consider a more formal support.

Helping parents to access services of their own accord and/or a voluntary whole family plan to tackle the barriers to attendance 

A formal parenting contract agreed by the pupil, parent, school and/or local authority Progressing to a legally binding Education Supervision Order in the Family Court if there is nonengagement and deemed necessary 

This can be consideration of statutory social care where there are safeguarding concerns or Attendance prosecution.

Where there are safeguarding concerns and an Education Supervision Order is not appropriate or has not been successful the case should be considered for s.17 or s.47 statutory social care involvement 

Where all other routes have failed or are not deemed appropriate, the case should be considered for attendance prosecution in the Magistrates Court (or a FPN for irregular attendance)