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Message from the Head of Secondary Mr Paul Harrison

Earlier this term, I attended a morning assembly for Year 7-9 students led by Mr Evans, our Key Stage 3 Coordinator. The focus of the assembly was on attendance and punctuality. Mr Evans asked the students what they thought “good attendance” was. He asked the students if they thought that 90% attendance was acceptable. In real terms, this is equivalent to a student (let’s call him Adam for the purposes of this exercise) being absent for HALF A DAY every week of the school year. (Would your boss like you to take half a day off every week?)

If you take that half a day, and view it over the whole school year, it adds up to 4 WEEKS of school time missed in one academic year. And if you view it over five years (the start of Year 7 to the end of Year 11 and IGCSE exams), then this adds up to a whole HALF YEAR of school time missed.

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Our assembled students were asked to imagine what impact this level of absence would have on this imaginary student called Adam. According to Mr Evans, who quoted some research from the Department for Education and Science in the UK, 17 missed school days each year is equivalent to one grade dropped in GCSEs at the end of Year 11. Our student Adam, while he may be a very talented chap capable of great things later in life, will not get the grades he is capable of simply because he is not in school enough. The grade A that he so desperately needs to get to the next stage in his life will only be a grade B, and that could be the difference between him following his dream path to a brighter future and having to follow a less favourable path.

Absence from school does happen. Often because of events in our lives that are unavoidable. Serious illness, for example, can take a student out of school for an extended period of time. Sudden changes in family circumstances can also result in an extended absence. As a school, we accept that these things will happen, and we try to mitigate the long term effects of absence on the child’s learning as much as we can. We do understand and try to support the student and family as best as much as possible.

Many absences are avoidable however, and with a little bit of forethought and planning could be scheduled to take place at weekends and during school holidays. We publish a calendar of events for the year to help parents plan around important educational milestones in their child’s education. Please use this information to the benefit of your child. At the end of the day, however, the student and family have to take a decision about whether they feel that an absence from school is justification enough for them. Do they think that 90% attendance is acceptable? If so, they should know the consequences of that decision, and like in Adam’s case, they will have to accept lower exam results as one of those consequences. As I have said to many students and parents throughout my career, “if you are in school, we can teach you”. Education, after all, is what we do; but we cannot do it without you.

I am going to make one final attempt this week to ask parents for suggestions to improve the Parent Handbook. Work has already begun on the next edition for the 2017-18 academic year, and the deadline for final copy to go to the printer later next term will be upon us before we know it. So, do you have any suggestions or requests for what we put in YOUR handbook? Please let me know by sending me an email.

Parent drop-ins are upon us again, and will take place next week, Thursday 30th March. I hope to see you there.

Thank you.

Paul Harrison

Footnote:  I have not referred to punctuality in my letter above, but this is important as well. Regular late arrival to school, or requests to leave school early, will accumulate and have just as significant effect on a child’s learning as absence will. It also has a significant effect on other students whose learning is disrupted by the late arrival to their class of another student. Being on time to school means that the learning process can begin as planned. Whereas absence from a class only affects the child who is absent, being late affects the whole class. Punctuality is a virtue. Tardiness is not.

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