Teachers and council aim to combat school truancy in Portsmouth

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HEADTEACHERS and the council have vowed to solve the city’s problem with school truancy.

Portsmouth’s average school attendance falls below the national average of 5.2 per cent and headteacher at The Flying Bull Academy Deamonn Hewett-Dale blames funding cuts.

He said: ‘Due to budget cuts we have reduced support from social care and mental health services to help the kids who don’t want to come to school for a number of different reasons.

‘These cuts mean children’s education is being affected and it is only going to get worse.’

The primary school in Buckland has pastoral care dedicated to helping students who don’t come to school.

Mr Hewett-Dale added: ‘We have the funding for an attendance team and we have had issues in the past, but we are now well above average for attendance.

‘Some schools don’t have these roles which provide a link with the council’s education team to be kept up to date with legislation and help to involve the families which is so important.’

Deputy head teacher at Admiral Lord Nelson School Matthew Hutton thinks the recent cuts are ‘killing’ schools. He said: ‘We have a limited amount of money and staff are being asked to do more for less and they are stretched in the support they can give.

‘There have been big steps and there are a lot of schools getting really good Ofsted results, but there is still a lot of work to do. We all need to tackle this issue together.’

The main reason in Portsmouth is health-related, with it accounting for 60 per cent of absences.

Mr Hutton added: ‘It is all about early intervention and what I would like to see is for Portsmouth to look at getting involved at a very young age.’

The city council’s education scrutiny board is reviewing the attendance problem and is sending councillors into schools throughout the area to understand the views of teachers, parents and the pupils themselves.

Councillor Hannah Hockaday, cabinet member for education at Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘Improving school attendance remains a priority for Portsmouth City Council, working in partnership with all schools and academies in the city.

‘We want to ensure that all children are able to benefit from high quality education and good attendance at school is the best way to ensure that children can take advantage of this.’

The council’s attendance strategy has four main priorities including parents meeting their responsibilities to ensure their child attends regularly, schools having effective leadership and management of attendance in place and a high profile of key attendance messages being maintained.

Alison Jeffery, director of children’s services at the city council, said: ‘School attendance in Portsmouth is improving but is still not as good as other places in the country. Absence for health reasons is a big factor and we are working with schools and the NHS locally to recruit a small number of additional school nurses, who can give families advice about whether children need to be off school or not and what they can do to keep healthy.

‘Parents can also access health advice on the “Healthier Together” website what0-18.nhs.uk.

‘Making sure your child is at school regularly is hugely important for their future.’

‘If anyone is concerned about their child or teenager’s attendance at school they should always talk to staff at the school. They can also get advice from one of the six Family Hubs in the city.

‘If your child has poor attendance, or you have other concerns, and you would like advice please visit portsmouth.gov.uk and search ‘early help and prevention’ or contact one of the six family hubs in the city.’

Buckland Family Hub

Turner Road, Buckland, PO1 4PN

T: 023 9273 3440

E: Bucklandcc@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Landport Family Hub

221 Arundel Street, Portsmouth, PO1 1NF

T: 023 9281 5005

E: Jayda.Khan@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Somerstown Family Hub

Omega Street, Southsea, PO5 4LP

T: 023 9282 1816

E: Somerstowncc@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Milton Park Family Hub

Perth Road, Southsea, PO4 8EU

T: 023 9282 7392

E: Miltoncc@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Northern Parade Family Hub

Doyle Avenue, Hilsea, Portsmouth, PO2 9NE

T: 023 9266 0866

E: Northernparadecc@portsmouthcc.gov.uk

Paulsgrove Family Hub

Cheltenham Road, Paulsgrove, Portsmouth, PO6 3PL

T: 023 9238 5995

E: Paulsgrovecc@portsmouthcc.gov.uk