Hope Academy recently hosted a conference for a portion of its Year 10 and 11 students, to hear their views on the importance of good school attendance and why barriers to it might arise.
The conference came in the run up to GCSE exams for Year 11s, and mock-tests for Year 10s, raising awareness of the impact of absence on
achievement, which Department for Education data attests to.
According to the national data, in 2012/13 81.7 per cent of pupils who achieved 100 per cent attendance finished Year 11 with five or more A*-C GCSEs including English and Mathematics, whilst of those that missed up to five per cent of school sessions – the equivalent of less than ten days absence – 73.5 per cent attained similar GCSE results, with a noticeable descending trend.
Hope students were encouraged to voice their views and opinions in workshop groups, discussing the negative impact of absenteeism and the most common reasons for missing school.
Some commented on the pressures of workloads, and asked for more assistance with bus fares, whilst others suggested that in-school counselling or mentoring sessions could be introduced, so that students have a safe place to talk about problems at home which may affect attendance.
Student responses will be fed back to the academy with a view to looking at how attendance could be boosted.
The two-hour conference was delivered by St Helens Council’s Education Welfare Service, which after much positive feedback from the academy’s pupils and staff, now hopes to take to other schools across the borough.
De La Salle School and Cowley International College have already expressed an interest.
Coun Jeanette Banks, cabinet member for Education and Lifelong Learning, said: “The attendance conference presents a new way of working for the service.
“Now, in addition to home visits where necessary, we can talk about the noticeable impact of absence on achievement to a wider school audience, and not just those pupils with low attendance. It’s very much a preventative, rather than reactionary measure.
“It’s also encouraging pupils to take on the responsibility of their own attendance at a significant time – with Year 10 and 11 pupils coming to crucial phases in their GCSE studies.
“We’ve had some very complimentary feedback from staff, and the views of Hope Academy students that took part will help us to adapt the Education Welfare Service to better support schools across the borough.”