Wednesday 5 October 2011

Is this Academy fiddling the attendance figures?

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We received this anonymous letter through the post. Since it neither identifies the Academy or the sender we are unable to investigate the allegation, nor prove or disprove it. However it is not the first time that such comments have been made about how some Academies record attendance. We are posting it to reinforce the concerns that many people feel about the pressure that Academies are under to deliver, and that because they are no longer accountable to the Local Authority, that such problems can develop without any checks.

 click here to see the letter

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Anti Academies Alliance

PO Box 14412

Birmingham

Bu 9DZ

23rd September 2011

Dear Sir/Madam

I work in an Academy school and was initially pleased about this as I thought it would be good for the children. However, at my academy I have been instructed to record all children who are educated off-site as a B code. This means educated off-site but for the purposes of the statistics it means that they are present in school. While under local authority control we were required to contact the off-site provider each day to confirm that the pupil was attending their provision and if they did not attend for a good reason (i.e. illness) they were marked as absent and generally the absence was not authorised. Generally the most challenging children who are not engaged with mainstream education are offered off-site provision and clearly ensuring they are attending the provision is important. My concern is that these most vulnerable children are being written off in an effort to make it look like academies are working.

In my view, coding a child as B when they are not attending their provision is a means of fiddling the figures and I am writing to you in the hope that you can use this information when informing parents about the true nature of academies. They are sold to the public on the basis that they are good for the children and can turn attendance around. However, this is not the case.

Children are also being marked as ill when their attendance is poor. When under local authority control they would have been required to provide medical evidence otherwise the absence would be marked as unauthorised. Again, this means that the levels of unauthorised absence are reduced.

Finally, we have been told to take a pupil off roll who has decided to leave the school and move elsewhere prior to them actually attending the new provision. Again, under local authority control we would not take a child off roll until we had confirmed that they had started at their new school. This meant coding their absence as unauthorised. Clearly, if they are removed from roll prior to taking up their new provision it makes the attendance figures at the school look good. Using this system makes a child more vulnerable to being lost in the system.

Clearly if I were to give you my name I could find myself in a difficult situation in my work and therefore am not giving my name or address. However, I hope this information is of use to you and that it helps in the fight against academies.

Thank you.

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11 comments

  1. James said:

    a) Form Tutors should always record a student they now to be educated off-site a “B”. It is the attendance officer’s role to check this, not the Form Tutor. It is the attendance officer’s responsibility to update the coding if the student has not attended. Depending on the MIS system used, other providers can directly update the recording of the students attendance.

    b) There are many legitimate ways a student can be removed the roll without having started at another school. Different local authorities may have different policies, but the law has always been clear, if a parent writes a letter stating the student will be educated: “Other than at a school” then the school is acting perfectly legitimately to remove them roll. LA schools have been doing this for years.

    9 October 2011 at 9:00pm
  2. Jane said:

    James: I’m not sure that what you say is true. Certainly where I worked (in Westminster) we were not allowed to take children off roll unless we had received confirmation that they were on roll elsewhere and, certainly, a letter stating that the child was being educated other than at school would need to be investigate. This was to protect children from abuse or forcible marriage, etc. E

    Even if this is not required, any school which cares about the welfare of its students would, as good practice, follow this procedure.

    On the wider issue: one academy in Westminster was guilty of sending students home “to wait for a letter” to parents. A member of staff told me that she was concerned that so many of her class were absent for a long period of time. Apparently, the children thought they were excluded although no procedures had been followed. Miraculously, after she had given me some names and I had contacted Westminster City Council, the students reappeared in school. One had been absent, without any follow up, for about 5 months. So, yes, this is another problem with academies. It may be annoying to have the local authority coming in and giving grief, but the other side of the coin gives dangerous leeway to those who would prefer to ignore the needs of challenging students.

    9 October 2011 at 10:44pm
  3. JD said:

    What James refers to is the removal off roll of a child that a parent has opted to elect to educate at home. Every parent has the right to do this and indeed simply has to write a letter stating this to the headteacher. The school should then inform the local authority via their EWO and provide a copy of the letter. The LEA should then refer this case to their elective home education co-ordinator or equivalent and when done advice the school to take off roll. The right to elect to home educate can only be taken away from a parent if there is clear evidence that they are not educating the child, then the LEA would have to serve a school Attendance Order and direct the parent to send the child to a school choosen by the LEA, if the parent fails to comply then they have broken the law and the case can be considered for either Education Supervision Order or referal to magistrates court.

    The only other legitimate way that a child can be removed from roll without them having started at another school is if they leave an area without notifying the school and their whereabouts and contact details are unknown and where the school and the LEA have made attempts to find them and these atttempts can be evidenced. In this situtation the LEA would pass the childs details to the CME officer (child missing education) once the child had been entered on to this tracking database the LEA would advise the school to remove from roll.

    I hope this helps to clear this up.

    23 April 2012 at 8:55pm
  4. deborah said:

    My son was suspended for a period of two days, and then again for one day a few weeks later. I then recieve a letter from the Welfare Officer saying his low attendance of 86.11% was cause for concern and that it was to be monitored. I pointed out to her that if he hadnt been suspended for the 3 days, his attendance would have been over 90%. I then pointed out that the ‘registration certificate’ she sent me was coded ‘NN'(no reason yet provided for absence) for the last suspension day! She apologised saying she had no idea that it was a suspension… Since that phonecall, I have since realised that the other two suspension days were both coded ‘CC’ (other authorised circumstances), when they should in fact have been coded ‘EE’ (excluded, no alternative provision made). Does anyone think they deliberately fiddling the codes to their advantage, so it doesnt show a SEN child having 3 days exclusion in his first term? and therefore at his records expense? Can anyone tell me who to point this out to, other than the school themselves, before they can amend such lies??

    12 January 2013 at 7:03pm
  5. deborah said:

    PS… ALSO I have not been issued the afore mentioned exclusions in writing from the school, again, is this also to hide exclusion figures??

    12 January 2013 at 7:05pm
  6. Jane said:

    My sons academy haven’t been marking his attendance register correctly for a while now. I always point out when they have marked him in wrong, i.e. Educated Off-site when in fact he was put on a reduced timetable 1/2 days so every afternoon should have been marked as Authorised Absence. They have also sometimes marked him in for full days when he was on the reduced timetable. Not sure how that can happen when he isn’t even in afternoon registration!?! I have pulled them on this but they never amend it!

    5 April 2013 at 4:20pm
  7. maggie said:

    my son has been off school for 6 months due to illness and the academt has coded his absence as educated off site or b. they have done this to make their absence figures look as though they are working.the school have polotely asked me to remove my son from their role as well so that they dont have to deal with this problem.i will keep you informed.

    11 April 2013 at 6:16pm
  8. Peter J Read said:

    Surely we are entitled to know why Jock McTavish thinks this excellent website, doing a great job in exposing poor academy practices, is a waste of time. Does he have a vested interest in keeping the scandals quiet?

    12 April 2013 at 11:57am
  9. Steve Jones said:

    I also need information about DRET. If this website is so good, somebody give me some negatives.

    13 April 2013 at 9:35pm
  10. Rosie Fergusson said:

    Deborah,

    YOu can complain to OFSTED if the school is not recording your son’s attendance record correctly and send a copy of your complaint to the school ( politely). YOu may also be able to interest the local media.

    11 May 2013 at 6:22am
  11. Neil Welton said:

    At the end of the day it is the personal responsibility of the child and also the parent to ensure that a child attends school. The state should only step in if a child does not have a school to attend or if the child is unauthorised absent for one week. Rather than complicated codes, box-ticking and tiresome form-filling (to help justify more non-jobs at County Hall), a school should only have to ensure “education provision” for a child and also check he or she is “safe and well”. I fail to see why the reputation of a whole school, including its staff and teaching, should be adversely influenced and thus undermined by children who, for whatever reason, have ultimately “chosen” not to be engaged with education. We have simply wasted far too much time in this country worrying about challenging, difficult or disobedient children. Indeed, a very lucrative special needs industry has now grown up around them. Meanwhile bright children from poor backgrounds have been left to rot in politically correct (rather than very high standard) schools.

    26 May 2013 at 7:37pm