Why I jumped at the opportunity to create Liverpool’s Education Attendance Campaign

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Jennifer Bruce — video journalist, Liverpool City Council

Jennifer Bruce — video journalist, Liverpool City Council

Not sending your child to school every day? Unfortunately, you’re not the only one. And it all adds up. Massively.

Every year in Liverpool, more than 500,000 school days are lost to absenteeism, and almost half of those are unauthorised. Quantitatively this means we’re below the national average for school attendance, qualitatively it means that a lot of children are missing out on learning that can have a detrimental knock-on effect months or years down the line.

Investing in our children and young people is vital, in fact it’s one of the six objectives in the council’s Inclusive Growth Plan, but we can’t do this if we’re not encouraging parents to make sure their children get in the classroom.

For some of us our school days were not the “best days of my life”. I remember my parents’ daily battle getting all five of us kids out of bed and off to school, and, as is always the case some of us were easier to manage than others. I was particularly bad; there were two reasons: I didn’t like school and no one will ever describe me as a morning person.

I have no doubt my mother had better things to do in the morning than make sure — several times — I had not gone back to bed instead of putting my school uniform on and brushing my teeth. Every morning, year after year my sainted mother fought the same battle and every morning whether I liked it or not I had to go to school.

It’s fair to say Mum eventually won the war, and what kept her going was her iron will and the value my parents placed on education — because of the value their parents placed on education and their parents before them.

I remember being that kid who didn’t want to go to school and at the same time I’m very grateful to my parents for making me go — I get it now, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to create Liverpool’s Education Attendance Campaign.

Liverpool City Council shares the same value my parents have and as a result a lot of people, from across the council and School Improvement Liverpool, have been working very hard to improve attendance.

An attendance task team has been created bringing partners from across the city together to share their knowledge and expertise to create and implement practical solutions that start to chip away at the problem and leave lasting results.

The research behind our attendance figures is fascinating and the work that schools are doing to turn their attendance figures around is remarkable, such as a primary school in Dingle that reward children with high attendance rates with a movie and popcorn on a Friday, sounds simple but it works — an eight year old girl said it was one of the main reason her attendance has gone from 80–100%. Now we need to start sharing the good practice far and wide.

As we started to go through the research and brainstorm our strategy it was clear we need to approach this in two phases, the first phase will tackle those that dip in and out of school and don’t see the harm in taking a few days off here and there — essentially the kid I wanted to be.

Then there’s the much darker side of absenteeism, the families that are struggling to keep their heads above the waterline and the kids facing exploitation and criminality. These circumstances are often crippling families that want the best for each other.

There is a lot of raw talent and excellence in Liverpool and we have no doubt that you will be inspired to see the innovative solutions created in our city by your schools, community groups and ingenious people determined to make the most of every opportunity. Their glinty eyes reveal the same steely determination and value for education that my parents had.

As much as I didn’t like school and didn’t understand the point of it at the time, I have reaped the rewards for my parents’ commitment to championing my education.

We know parents want the best for their kids, so do we.

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