A new drive to tackle school absence in Liverpool will see businesses asked to help promote good attendance and the reintroduction of truancy patrols.
The Attendance Strategy will build on the progress that the city has made in recent years and aims to close the gap with the national average.
It is led by School Improvement Liverpool, which provides support to schools and other educational settings to enable them to be the best they can be.
An Attendance Charter – backed by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce – will see firms promoting the importance of regular schooling with their staff to help ensure tomorrow’s workforce reach their full potential.
Truancy Patrols, involving council staff and Merseyside Police, will also be reintroduced to find pupils who are skipping school and tackle parents who keep their children off school without a good reason.
And a Quality Mark will be established to recognise and celebrate schools that challenge absence robustly and create a culture of attendance.
Figures for the 2015/16 academic year show that primary level attendance in Liverpool is 95.42 percent – just short of the national average of 96.1 percent, while in secondary schools it is 93.92 percent compared to 95 percent nationally.
Liverpool recognises it particularly needs to do more to tackle persistent absence, which is classed as 10 percent of lessons missed. In primary schools 11.33 percent of pupils are persistently absent compared to 8.8 percent nationally, while at secondary school level it is 17.15 percent compared to 12.3 percent across the rest of the country.
Mayor Joe Anderson said: “A considerable amount of excellent work to support children’s attendance at school has been done in Liverpool, but as a city we are still lagging behind other core cities and the national average.
“As a parent and grandparent, I want to see every part of our education system working well for the children, and as Mayor of Liverpool I want to make sure they are ready to face the best possible life chances in a city that is full of opportunities.
“We need to build on existing good practice and introduce new measures to help tackle the issues facing Liverpool in relation to unacceptably high absence rates.
“Promoting positive school attendance is a responsibility that belongs to everyone, and, in Liverpool, tackling absence will be raised across all agencies and will become a shared responsibility as it is all of our business.”
Evidence shows that:
• A child who is 10 minutes late misses 32 hours a year of lost education
• A child who misses one day a week loses two months a year of education
• Half a day a week missed throughout school life equates to one full year of lost education
Assistant Mayor and Cabinet member for education, Cllr Nick Small, said: “We have been working hard with our schools to get the message across to parents that every lesson counts for their children but we have to do more.
“There are still too many pupils who are missing school needlessly, affecting their chances of going on to get a good job and have a stable life.
“We need to tackle the culture that it is acceptable to take children out of school needlessly, such as when it is their birthday or for a shopping trip, or fixing a routine medical appointment for the middle of the day rather than before or after lessons. Even a small amount of time missed from lessons every week can add up to a substantial amount over a school year.”
Elaine Rees, Chief Executive of Liverpool Learning Partnership – set up by school and education leaders to ensure the needs of all learners are prioritised – said: “I am delighted to endorse this city wide approach to improving school attendance. In Liverpool Learning Partnership we are committed to working with partners to tackle this issue.
“We need to support all that schools are doing to champion attendance and add our collective energies to seeing even greater improvements.”
Jenny Stewart, Chief Executive of Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce, said: “Attending school helps instil the key principles of employability: communication, team work and leadership.
“School can be both the best and the toughest time of anyone’s life, not dissimilar to life at work. Maximising the school experience, embracing it and learning from it, gives today’s young people the chance to be prepared to change the world. The world is changed by people who show up. It starts at school.”
The strategy is being launched at a business event organised by Liverpool and Sefton Chambers of Commerce at the Art School Restaurant on Wednesday 22 March.