Who is responsible for making a referral to the AST?
Regular time-tabled sessions to discuss school attendance with Attendance Action Group should be arranged and referrals made to AST only after the school has tried and failed to engage the parent to address attendance problems and initiated a series of letters as guided.
Schools should discuss requests for Penalty Notices directly with AST. As much information as possible should be included by the referrer e.g. family circumstances, involvement with other agencies, known health problems.
Some triggering factors could be:-
- pupil is developing a lateness problem
- erratic attendance i.e. broken weeks over a period of time
- poor communication with parent
- no response to 1st day contact procedures or school texts/telephone calls requesting the reason for absence
- family trauma - pupil distressed, mood swings, sudden changes in character
- suspected illegal child employment
- material needs
- concern over the care and control, health or general wellbeing of a child at home or in the community
- any welfare concerns about the pupil
What action should the school have taken before a referral is made?
It is important that all absence is monitored and action taken by school staff before serious cases are referred to the AST. Therefore, before a referral is made the school will have applied all school resources without success e.g.:-
- on first day of absence, contact should be made to alert parent/s that pupil is not in school
- SAL 1, 2, or 3 letter should have been sent to parent(s) by school
- pupils will have been spoken to at school to obtain the child’s perception of any difficulties, i.e. bullying, curriculum difficulties etc.
- a member of staff will have already tried to contact parent(s) to discuss attendance difficulties
- Ideally, Parents/Carers will have been invited to an Attendance Concern Meeting
- Home visits have been undertaken by the EWO or a member of school staff.
What happens next?
The AST will consider all the circumstances of the referral and may seek further information from school staff (e.g. Social Care, Early Help Support) before issuing warning or penalty notices to the parents. An AST referral form should be completed by the school and sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
What if all attempts to contact the parents or guardians fail?
Appropriate warning or penalty notices will be issued by the Attendance Support Team and this could eventually lead to legal action being taken against the parent.
In complex cases schools may need to consider a referral to support networks. School staff may need to complete appropriate referrals/assessments to access additional support and arrange meetings to discuss support further. In some cases this may involve working with parents to help them to see the school’s view and vice-versa. Where ill health is a factor, the school will seek to confirm the medical problems identified by the child/parent, (particularly if there have been several referrals and the explanation has been ill health). If it is felt that the parent(s) have not sought appropriate medical help but are merely making excuses, parent(s) will be advised to obtain medical evidence for all future absences from their doctor.
Where learning needs or problems of school refusal/phobia have been raised, the school may need to consult with the Special Educational Needs and Disability Co-ordinator (SENDCo) and possibly consider a referral for advice from a Learning Support Advisory Teacher, or Educational Psychologist.
The school may have discussed with the family and child a referral to BeeU or Social Care, if appropriate.
Where there is already social work involvement the Designated Safeguarding Lead (DSL) for the school will have liaised with the social worker in order to determine separate areas of responsibility and to consider the possibility of a joint visit if appropriate.
The Nominated Attendance Person should liaise with school staff and EWO and draw up a plan of action to address any issues raised by the child or family regarding difficulties that might mitigate against regular attendance at school. These may include; bullying, curriculum problems, teacher/pupil relationships, domestic problems, financial hardship, drug/alcohol abuse etc.
What happens when all avenues have been explored, and the child still does not attend school regularly?
Provided absences are unauthorised, a Warning Notice (AST 1 or 1A) will be issued and attendance monitored for a minimum of 15 school days between each intervention. If there is no improvement in attendance a Final Warning Notice (AST 2 or 2A) may be served on the parents.
If there is no significant improvement in attendance noted within a minimum of 15 school days of the serving of this warning, AST will require the school to request an Interview Under Caution (IUC) also known as a PACE interview (under Police & Criminal Evidence Act 1984).
AST will liaise with school staff in the preparation of any interview and invite the parent to attend. This process will be to present evidence of unauthorised absence to the parent with a view to legal action being taken.
Following the IUC, the case will be sent to the LA Legal team and a decision made whether Court proceedings will be initiated under Section 444 of the 1996 Education Act.