A short while ago, the Department for Education (DfE) announced plans to expand the revolutionary Attendance Hub programme, alongside the expansion of Attendance Mentors to areas of the country with the highest levels of student absence. This programme was designed to provide an innovative platform for collaboration, with school staff, local authorities and parents working together to improve struggling attendance figures.
In this article, we take a closer look at the role of Attendance Hubs and how the promotion and sharing of best practices is helping to support student’s academic success while addressing the growing challenge of poor attendance rates.
The challenge of improving attendance in schools
Low attendance is a persistent issue within many schools across the UK, with poor attendance impacting the progress, development, and overall well-being of students.
There are many issues which can impact attendance rates from health concerns and social barriers to family circumstances, however, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted pupil attendance, as highlighted by School Minister, Nick Gibb:
We know that the best place for children to learn is in the classroom, and the vast majority of children are currently in school and learning. Though pupil attendance is continuing to recover, the pandemic has still had a real impact on pupil absence in school. That is why we’re expanding some of our most important attendance measures today – including the attendance hubs and mentoring programmes, to ensure children have the best chance of receiving a high-quality education.
Tackling these attendance issues is vitally important, guidance from the DfE highlights, as pupils with the highest attainment levels at the end of key stage 2 and key stage 4 have the highest rates of attendance. In addition, the research states that for the most vulnerable pupils, regular attendance serves as an important protective factor with 90% of young offenders being recorded as persistently absent.
Tackling this complex problem demands a comprehensive approach which extends beyond the strained efforts of individual schools.
To successfully treat the root cause of absence at home and within schools, the DfE recognised that a collaborative effort was required to remove the barriers to education both within and beyond the school gates. The sole efforts of a single teacher will not improve attendance across the school, instead concepts such as Attendance Hubs are an excellent way to encourage a concerted effort throughout the school and the surrounding community.
The Attendance Hub concept
The first Attendance Hub was established by the CEO of Northern Education Trust, Rob Tarn, with a mission to provide schools with techniques and resources to improve attendance. A trial was completed in North Shore Academy, which resulted in an improvement in absence rate to 8.2% (the national absence rate in schools for that year was 9%), despite the school having three times the national average of disadvantaged students.
The success of the North Shore Academy pilot scheme led to the creation of a hub for schools in similar circumstances in May 2021, with those who joined benefitting from significant improvements in attendance.
It is the excellent improvements in school attendance seen within this hub that has encouraged the government to invest in the expansion of the scheme, with the DfE announcing that seven academies and two alternative provision trusts will lead new hubs.
These hubs will follow a collaborative approach with methods shared that are designed to drive student attendance. Together they will support 600 schools, and an additional attendance mentoring programme being extended to Knowsley, Doncaster, Stoke-on-Trent and Salford, with an aim to support 1,665 pupils with persistent absence records.
Popular practices shared within schools so far include:
- Automatic text messaging to parents of absent pupils
- Building strong connections with families
- Introducing targeted after-school activities
- Using data data to effectively tackle attendance issues at an early stage
These best practices are useful, as highlighted by James Bowen from the National Association of Head Teachers, however, the government does need to invest widely in specialist teams which work at a local level to provide the support schools need to tackle staffing and mental health issues.
The Attendance Hubs started supporting schools in June, with mentors rolled out into the new areas from September. Depending on the success of these schemes, the programmes could potentially be expanded across the country.
EDClass – Supporting students and teachers
At EDClass we are passionate about supporting students and teachers, and we are thrilled to hear the news of the Attendance Hub expansion. However, as a team we understand the complex pressures faced by schools, with issues such as funding cuts, staff shortages and mental health problems all impacting the ability of schools to provide the resources so urgently required.
Our innovative education delivery platform is designed to provide a solution to many issues faced by schools, with engaging lesson content from a provider you can trust. To find out more or to book a free demo, please contact our team today on 01909 568 338 or by email at email@example.com.