Concerns raised about attendances at Portsmouth primary schools

CONCERNS have been raised about school attendance as fresh figures reveal a mixed picture across the city.

Friday, 1st March 2019, 11:53 am
Updated Friday, 1st March 2019, 12:55 pm
The latest figures on school attendance have been released

As Portsmouth City Council tries to boost attendance, The News has compiled tables showing which schools have the best attendance across the academic year 2017/2018.

The data shows that in the city’s secondary schools 6.67 per cent of sessions are missed. For the previous academic year the national average was 5.4 per cent.

Of that 6.67 per cent, 3.8 per cent of absences were authorised and 2.87 per cent were not.

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For children with persistent absence – those missing at least 10 per cent of school – the absence rate went to 18.2 per cent.

This is equivalent to almost two out of every 10 students missing at least one full day every two weeks.

Primary school absence rates stood at 4.21 per cent of sessions missed. The 2017 national rate was 4 per cent.

While Portsmouth primaries’ average level of permitted absences is below the 2017 national average, it is performing worse than the previous year’s national picture for unauthorised absences.

In primary schools around 9.2 per cent of pupils were persistently absent – missing at least 10 per cent of school. This is almost one in every 10 pupils on average failing to attend school at least one day every fortnight.

The city’s top performing secondary school for attendance was St Edmund’s Catholic School with an absence rate of just 3.91 per cent, almost half the city average of 6.67 per cent. Just 1.22 per cent of absences were unauthorised.

The worst performance for attendance was at King Richard School – now Castle View Academy – with an overall absence rate of 12 per cent and an unauthorised rate of 7.6 per cent.

Christian Down, principal of Castle View Academy, said: ‘As part of United Learning, we have been able to quickly and successfully address the historic problems faced by our predecessor school. With the support of the group, we have introduced a range of initiatives which have led to increased levels of attendance. We work closely with our students and their families to ensure they come to school on time every day and are able to take full advantage of the educational opportunities open to them at Castle View Academy.’

Persistent absence at the school was 35.4 per cent meaning on average between three or four students missed at least one day every two weeks.

King Richard, as it was, also had the highest proportion of pupils with a chronic level of absence with 8.8 per cent of the school population missing more than half of school.

The News has previously revealed concerns over absence rates – with the council launching its own campaign to tackle the problem.

Parents who repeatedly fail to ensure their children go to school can be fined and if they do not pay, they are then prosecuted.

The council has said there is a significant minority of parents whose children do not regularly attend school.

Posters have been put up at schools to warn people students must attend.


What does the data mean?

FIGURES have been taken from the school census that all head teachers have to complete each year. The current data is provisional and therefore may be subject to slight change.

School sessions are categorised as morning and afternoon. The percentage of authorised sessions missed is the proportion of morning or afternoon sessions pupils did not attend but had a valid reason.

For unauthorised absence, no valid reason was given and therefore the absence was not authorised by the school.

The overall absence rate is calculated by combining the percentage of authorised and unauthorised number of sessions missed by the school population across the year. If two schools have the same absence rate, the school with a higher proportion of unauthorised absence is ranked as the worse performing of the two.

Persistent absence looks at the proportion of pupils who have an attendance rate of less than 90 per cent. A persistent attendance rate of 20 per cent would indicate two out of every ten students were missing at least one day every two weeks.

Chronic non-attendees refers to the percentage of pupils who have missed more than 50 per cent of possible sessions.

The data is provisional and has not yet been published. This means when it is published in May this year by the Department for Education some figures may change.


The importance of school attendance

RESEARCH has shown a link between attendance and attainment.

Portsmouth City Council deputy director of children’s services Mike Stoneman said: ‘Figures from the most recent Department for Education report showed that pupils with no absence were 2.2 times more likely to achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A*-C, now the equivalent level four to nine, than pupils missing 10 to 15 per cent of lessons.’ 

Mr Stoneman added: ‘Attainment standards in Portsmouth are below where they need to be and if we could improve attendance by a few per cent I believe it would make a huge difference to outcomes.’

After Portsmouth registered in the bottom 25 per cent for persistent school absence (attendance below 90 per cent) the council launched their Miss School, Miss Out campaign.

As reported and backed by The News at its launch in October, the council hopes the campaign will improve student attendance during the current academic year and ultimately lead to improved outcomes for the city.

Speaking at the launch, director of children’s services, families and education, Alison Jeffrey, said: ‘Last year 5,000 children, one in every five, had at least one week of unauthorised absence with over 1,000 students missing on average one day every fortnight.’

‘We need to make it clear to families that attendance is important. We need a culture in the city where everyone understands the importance of getting to school.’


Primary schools

THE city’s best performing primary school was St John’s Cathedral Primary with an absence rate of 2.49 per cent, 1.51 per cent lower than the 2017 national average.

Only 0.2 per cent of absences were unauthorised.

St John’s was also the best performing school for persistent absence with a rate of 1.6 per cent.

Stamshaw Junior School had the worst attendance record with an absence rate of 6.4 per cent, 2.4 per cent higher than the 2017 national average. 

Cottage Grove had the greatest issue with chronic absence with 2.3 per cent of pupils missing more than 50 per cent of lessons.