Schools and local authorities have been urged to look at “the bigger picture” when investigating poor attendance this school year.
Neurodiversity expert, Janinne Perryman and former primary school teacher Louise Parker-Engels are calling for more to be done to investigate the reasons behind poor attendance.
The duo believe a lack of Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) training for new and experienced teachers, a limited professional experience of attendance difficulties and an ever changing, narrowing curriculum coupled with constraints on time and resources can mean that children do not receive the early interventions they need.
Jannine, the CEO and founder of ADHD-WISE UK, a community interest company which offers a training and consultancy SEND service for educational settings and workplaces, said: “The end of the school holidays brings mixed feelings, whilst some welcome a return to school and work, others are bracing themselves for a return to their child’s term time distressing mornings – refusal to get up, get dressed, to go to school or explosive outbursts when they get home.”
Children that present with tummy aches, headaches, high levels of distress or anxiety are at risk of becoming persistent absentees.
Louise said: “A number of these children may also demonstrate a serious decline in mental health – with potentially tragic consequences.”
In a bid to highlight the seriousness of the situation and reach those who may be able to influence a positive change, the duo have issued their advice and findings in SEN Magazine – the UK’s leading publication for special education needs.
Jannine said: “When it comes to poor attendance schools and local authorities need to be looking beyond the absence for the reason behind it asking, ‘why are they refusing to attend school? Or ‘why are they unable to attend?’
“Schools have clear, high expectations for attendance so persistent absence is a clear cause for concern, not only for the school and Ofsted, but for the child’s educational outcomes.
“Parents report that in their experience the school response has been to focus on either attendance difficulties being put down to parenting or family expectations or on a child’s mental health without looking at the underlying reasons.
“Recent government guidance on improving attendance makes numerous references to ‘barrier to attendance’. This and other relevant guidance shifts some of the focus from parenting or child mental health to looking at the bigger picture – encouraging schools and LA’s to understand why children are struggling to attend. This suggests they may not be choosing or refusing – rather, they can’t attend without the support they need and that’s where schools and local authorities are needed to investigate and address that need.”
Government statistics show that children with additional needs are less likely to attend school regularly. In fact pupils with an SEN statement or education healthcare (EHC) plan had a persistent absence rate of 24.6 per cent – more than twice the rate of students with no identified SEN (0.9 per cent).
ADHD WISE UK offers a range of expert services and support for children and adults all over the country with an extensive range of conditions including ADHD, autism, and dyslexia from its base in Silver Street, Wellingborough. Skills training, coaching and counselling can be provided for individuals and families as well as screening for children and adults.