Increasing attendance through better communication with parents

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Kitchener attendance

Improved communication with parents has seen pupil attendance at Kitchener Primary School significantly increase over the last three years, and the school now has some of the best attendance rates compared to other primary schools.

Number of pupils:  485
Age range:  3-11
Date of Inspection: February 2016

Information about the school

Kitchener Primary School is a large inner city, multi-cultural primary school close to the centre of Cardiff.  The school serves a community that is in the top 10% of most deprived areas in Wales.  The proportion of pupils eligible for free meals is 33%, there are high rates of mobility, and the number of languages spoken in the school currently stands at 27 with English as an additional language (EAL) levels at 86%.  Around 22% of pupils have additional learning needs.

Context and background to sector-leading practice

The school firmly believes that there are strong links between high rates of attendance, strong and positive relationships with pupils, staff and parents and good rates of achievement.

Description of nature of strategy or activity

The school monitors all pupils with attendance levels under 95% every four weeks.  Parents of pupils with levels of attendance that are under 95% receive a letter informing them of their child’s attendance, legal obligations and the support that the school can offer.  The school works closely with the School Attendance Officer to identify pupils with low levels of attendance, and either meets with parents in school to agree a plan to improve their child’s attendance or offer them a home visit.

Class teachers update all parents regarding their child’s attendance levels during open evenings and explain the importance that missing school has on their future learning.

The school has used its Pupil Deprivation Grant to employ a Bengali bilingual learning support assistant (LSA) to support learning and teaching of Bengali speaking pupils in the Nursery and to confirm the message to parents that good attendance matters and strong habits must be fostered very early on.  

The Czech bilingual LSA has worked closely with the deputy headteacher to write new attendance letters in Czech and to meet with all the Czech speaking families in the school to explain the expectations the school places on attendance.

The school has issued Fixed Penalty Notices to families who do not engage with its policy on attendance.  Parents are more aware of the importance of not taking holidays in term time

The school celebrates good attendance habits through a weekly assembly where the class that has the best attendance in the Foundation Phase and key stage 2 wins a cup and gets 10 minutes extra play-time.  The school shares these weekly results with all stakeholders by displaying them on an attendance board that links to the school’s twitter account.  Pupils with attendance rates of 98% or more receive a certificate at the end of every term.

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

Attendance rates five years ago placed the school in the bottom 25% of similar schools.  Attendance rates in the last three years have placed the school in the top 25%.  Attendance in the Nursery has risen to 88.5%, an increase of 4% compared to the previous year. 

Parents have a better understanding of the long-term effects of poor attendance.  They recognise that poor attendance often means that pupils find it more difficult to build meaningful and sustainable relationships with their peers and adults.  If relationships are not strong, pupils can feel anxious and isolated and this can have a negative impact on learning. 

Achievement rates have improved year on year in line with improved attendance.  Whole-school  attendance rates in 2012 were 92.6%, with the Foundation Phase Outcome Indicator (FPOI) at 59% and in 2015 the whole school attendance rate was 95% and the FPOI was 77.8%.

How have you shared your good practice?

The school has worked with a number of school leaders from schools in Cardiff and Newport to disseminate the monitoring procedures, engagement strategies and the data analysis of groups of pupils.