Two Huddersfield schools hit the headlines with above average rates for truancy or unauthorised absences.Here PAUL GITTINS, headteacher of Newsome High School and Sports College, and Dr ANDY WILLIAMS, executive headteacher at Fartown High School, reveal the measures which both schools have taken to reduce the figures for autumn 2008 and spring 2009 terms
TEAMWORK and a strong student support network have helped slash unauthorised absence figures at Newsome High School from 3.1% to 1.4%.
And at Fartown High School, latest figures show the number of persistent absentees has fallen from 84 to 40 for the same period this year and attendance is now above 90% for the first time in many years.
Now in his third year at the Newsome school, Mr Gittins has transformed the school into happy, safe, learning environment where pupils are keen to achieve.
Tackling truancy are assistant headteacher Chris Flaherty, attendance officer Joanne Williams and Safer Schools Partnership police officer, the aptly-named PC Caroline Newsome.
“We pride ourselves on providing a strong network, to improve attendance and work with parents and students at every level,” said Mr Flaherty.
At Fartown, Sue Wilkinson, assistant headteacher has taken strategic control of the issue alongside newly appointed attendance officer Helen Bullass and Sue Wilcockson, who overseas register data.
Dr Williams, executive headteacher at Fartown said: “Good attendance is key to achieving well at school – that is why it is so good to see families and school working together to achieve better attendance.”
Newsome attendance officer Joanne Williams is made aware of the first day of unauthorised absence by a pupil and makes personal telephone calls and visits home to work with families who are experiencing difficulties.
PC Newsome is also a familiar face on site and within the community during lunchtimes ensuring pupils are respectful and well mannered if allowed to go off site at lunchtime.
She also meets and greets students at the high school and neighbouring junior school to ensure all are given a sense of security and belonging.
Any persistent truants return to school on a partial timetable to help build their confidence and self-esteem before returning to a full timetable of lessons.
Another success has been a handful of year 11 students making a personal daily visit to the headteacher’s office to sign in, giving them a sense of pride and responsibility.
At Fartown new strategies have been introduced to improve systems of contact with families and home visits.
A “What Planet Are You On?” 10-week student challenge has been launched to encourage good attendance and a new texting service has been introduced to keep parents better informed.
Both schools operate a zero tolerance policy to late comers with daily detentions given during break time for latecomers.
Year 10 and 11 students are encouraged to begin their preparations for the world of work early and the importance of punctuality and time keeping in the working world is stressed.
Certificates, letters home and treats at Easter and Christmas encourage youngsters to maintain high standards
Dr Williams added: “There is growing evidence that the improved attendance in year 11 for example is already impacting upon early test and examination results that have been taken in modular courses and this can only be good news.”