Engaging parents and improving attendance

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Garnteg attendance

Garnteg Primary School uses family engagement projects and after-school clubs to encourage parents to help reduce learner absence.

Number of pupils: 302
Age range: 3-11
Date of Inspection: May 2015

Information about the school

Garnteg Primary School is in the small town of Garndiffaith, near Pontypool in the Torfaen local authority.

There are 302 pupils aged three to eleven on roll.  This includes 50 part-time who attend the nursery for either a morning or an afternoon session.  There are nine classes in the school.  With the exception of the part-time nursery class and one reception class, all classes have mixed aged pupils.  Around 40% of pupils are eligible for free school meals.  This is higher than the average for Wales (21%). 

The school has identified around 34% of its pupils as having additional learning needs.  A very few pupils have a statement of special educational needs.  English is the predominant language for all pupils and currently no pupils receive support for English as an additional language.  No pupils speak Welsh as their first language.  The headteacher took up her post in February 2010.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

In 2010, the school identified the need to improve its low attendance figure of 91%.  A key factor in ensuring that more children attended regularly and did not miss important learning opportunities was to engage parents in the school’s work.  As a result, it established a professional learning community with an aim to improve attendance by raising the status of high attendance and good punctuality within the school and the wider community.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

Over the last five years, the school has adopted a rigorous approach with regard to attendance while also engaging with parents.  Leaders view attendance as a key priority in school development planning.  The senior leadership team tracks attendance in classes and year groups, and of specific groups or individual pupils.  It acts swiftly if there are dips in attendance.  Good use is made, for example, of support services, such as the Education Welfare Officer, or the school’s pastoral counselor, to work closely with families experiencing challenging circumstances.  The school employs a part-time member of staff to follow up on pupils who are not in school and have no explanation for their absence.   

The school has worked extremely hard to engage with parents through its numerous family engagement projects and out of school clubs. 

For example, it supports children and parents in literacy, numeracy and ICT initiatives as well as providing support for parents in dealing with their children’s behaviour, speech and language difficulties.  Through such initiatives, the school has established a high-level of trust with parents and they feel comfortable in the school environment.  The exciting and interesting activities provided in family programmes mean that they also know what their children are missing by not attending regularly.  The school attempts to engage parents in discussions about attendance by providing them with reports in weekly newsletters.  Informative leaflets about attendance emphasise clearly that if pupils are not in school they are unlikely to make good progress or achieve well.

Over the last couple of years, the school has tried to engage with the parents of the youngest pupils who are not of statutory school age.  For example, a free breakfast club is then followed by chatterbox sessions for parents/carers of all nursery aged pupils and their children, to assist them in developing good speech and social communication skills.  In key stage 2, a reading project encourages families to go to school for a breakfast and blog recording session where members of staff encourage pupils to read with their parents and select additional home readers.  The school has found that, if parents can be encouraged very early on in bringing their children to school unless they are unwell, and not making appointments for their children with outside agencies during school time, their good attendance continues throughout their time in the school.

What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?

Effective partnership working within the school has had a very positive effect on raising standards of attendance as well as outcomes for learners, including their wellbeing.  From results of parental surveys between 2012 and 2015 and monitoring of punctuality and absences, parents have now have an improved knowledge and higher expectations of attendance and their link to good outcomes for pupils.  Participation and enjoyment in learning through a range additional breakfast club incentives and activities, including individually tailored programmes to suit the needs of difficult to reach families, have led to improved attendance for most learners.  The impact of monthly, drop in clinic sessions for parents with the school’s health visitors and school nurse, combined with pastoral counselling support, has also continued to raise attendance levels in particular for vulnerable groups of learners.  

Sharing good practice

Leaders have shared this good practice in family engagement through collaboration with the Abersychan Cluster of Schools.  The headteacher and SLT gave a presentation at the local consortium’s best practice workshop for headteachers in June 2015.