A government attendance adviser has urged the Department for Education to fund dozens more “attendance hubs”.
Rob Tarn, the chief executive of the Northern Education Trust, was appointed to the DfE’s “attendance action alliance” of expert advisers last year.
One trust school in a highly deprived area, North Shore Academy in Stockton-on-Tees, was also invited to do a DfE webinar last year, after achieving 93 per cent attendance.
This prompted Tarn to launch an “attendance hub” network pilot in May – which he now wants replicated nationwide.
“If you could bring schools together every month with similar challenges and communities, and all you did was share best practice as professionals who are peers and equals, maybe we’d start to get somewhere,” he said at the recent Confederation of School Trusts conference.
Many hubs, conferences and programmes focused on behaviour, leadership and outcomes, but there had never been “networking or partnerships” for attendance.
The trust received 250 requests to join, but it has capped numbers at 58. Tarn said its approach at North Shore was no “magic bullet” and might only work in areas with a similar demographic.
He hoped to help the DfE and other schools launch their own partnerships, with “30 partnerships of 50 schools each”.
He has asked the DfE to fund a co-ordinator for any new hubs or “a few grand” for participating staff. His own staff have spent “hundreds of hours” building resources.
Michael Robson, an executive principal leading the pilot, said North Shore had five learning managers, an education welfare officer, an attendance officer, and a safeguarding and wellbeing officer.
Pupils who had “lost their way” spent half a term in a “personalised learning centre” , studying the curriculum and doing a “social action project”.
The school was “really clear” about “red line behaviours” that were not tolerated, although pupils were offered support.
Tarn said “processes and protocol”, an “obsessive” approach and a culture where pupils felt “safe, aspirant, successful and want to come to school” were key.
The hubs included attendance dashboards, vulnerable student registers, discussions at every leadership meeting, “attendance hero” certificates and daily staff visits to some homes.
Tarn said other trust schools subsidised the large pastoral team at North Shore.