Q: It seems that so many government documents on behaviour and attendance emphasise the punitive. How can we work positively with our parents to improve attendance?

A. Many people would agree with you that government documents tends to reinforce the same message; absence will not be tolerated and there are powers and sanctions that can be enlisted to tackle it.

However, as your question suggests, one of the most powerful tool is the support of your parents and it is important to keep an open dialogue with them. They are not the enemy and keeping them informed about changing legislation and policy, and consulting them on how this will look in your school, is important.

When reviewing your policy and practice, make sure that parents are consulted either through sending out general information and requests for suggestions, or through a parent forum body. Take time to explain the reasons for your policy and the expectations that are placed on the school externally.

Where there are particular parents who face more challenges and who you are working with more closely, remember to communicate with them when there are positive things to report too. Sometimes parents feel that they are only contacted when there is a problem.

Issues surrounding poor attendance can usually be traced back to other issues in the home. Perhaps a CAF or the support of a family worker might help parents to address other difficulties that are impacting on their child’s attendance.

Most importantly, it’s your approach that counts. Make sure that you and the other staff you work with communicate to your families the shared ambition of improving matters for their child. It is a cooperative venture, and liaison should be optimistic, positive and looking for solutions rather than resorting too quickly to fines.


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