The Priorities

Whilst it is clear that we need to improve rates of attendance for all children, particularly those who are persistently or severely absent, there are some cohorts whose experiences and circumstances may require an additional focus and include;

  • Children with a social worker (CWSW)
  • Pupils with SEND and SEND support
  • Neurodiverse children and young people, particularly Autistic pupils, and those with social communication difficulties
  • Pupils with social, emotional, and mental health difficulties (SEMH) and/or those that have experienced adverse childhood experiences (ACES), children who are known to the youth justice service
  • Pupils who are young carers
  • Pupils who have parent/carers who may experience barriers to engagement.

The overarching priority is to improve school attendance for all pupils. To achieve these the following five priorities will be focused on, and that will be underpinned by a development plan.

Sutton’s medical pupil referral unit, Sutton Tuition and Reintegration Service (STARS), provides education support for children too unwell to attend school, and provide an outreach offer to support pupils to stay in their mainstream setting. An independent review of the provision was carried out during the summer term 2023. From September 2023 recommendations from the review will inform commissioning arrangements to ensure the provision reflects current needs.

In parallel with this review, we will be updating the Borough’s medical pathway and clarifying how education provision should be provided for pupils unable to attend school for medical reasons and the role alternative provision may play in this.

We aim to ensure that children experiencing difficulties with their mental health and wellbeing and their family are identified early and receive the support that they need. In collaboration with health partners clarity of services and pathways will be given and ensure a “one stop shop” approach to identifying what support is available in the local area and identifying where support may need to be developed to ensure services can be offered in a variety of settings, including outreach within the home.

Attendance is everyone’s business; we recognise the need for multi-agency support from the earliest of stages. Over 2000 children, parent/carers and professionals have told us what would help, we are using this feedback to shape and inform services that better meet the needs of our community.

In partnership with stakeholders, we are developing pathways and identifying areas of development to ensure thresholds are not barriers to receiving help. To support this, we are developing a single directory, a graduated response, of services that will bring together details on local services and support within schools that will assist in schools identifying and removing barriers to good attendance and that will identify when and how support can be used to be most impactful.

We have a rich tapestry of support panels in Sutton that provide information, advice, and guidance (IAG) and which allocate support and resources. In the Summer term 2023 we introduced a pilot attendance panel with the aim of discussing some of the most complex attendance cases and developing bespoke action plans to help improve attendance for these children, as well as identify themes and trends that may require a systemic response.

We are developing our systems, building a team around the school approach, with partners across education, health, social care, police, and voluntary and community sectors contributing to ensure a joined up and integrated approach is taken to support children, families, and settings. We are continuing to embed this approach which includes every school in Sutton having an allocated Education Welfare Officer (EWO).

Training and upskilling will be focused on, equipping frontline professionals with knowledge around ‘what works’ in attendance and helping them to navigate systems, interventions and legal processes which support positive attendance outcomes.

Early intervention and the ‘support first’ ethos is integral for improving school attendance. As a network we will monitor school attendance, embedding effective tools which support us to do this and using the data to continue to inform our approach to attendance at both systemic and operational levels.

We will prioritise relationships, working with parents/carers in partnership to coproduce supportive, meaningful plans, taking a whole family approach. An approach that will be embedded in both voluntary and statutory support including for children in need and those on child protection plans.

We are passionate about parents supporting parents and will promote and evolve Sutton’s network of parent support which includes coffee mornings, information, advice, and practical support though Family Hubs, parent advice sessions, and free face to face or online courses for parents.