The Scottish Government aims to promote good attendance at school. Absence from school, whatever the cause, disrupts learning. This guidance replaces ‘Included, Engaged and Involved Part 1: Attendance in Scottish Schools’ originally published in 2007. It draws together advice on good practice and establishes requirements regarding classifying and recording attendance and absence.
In addition to the classification of attendance and absence, this guidance seeks to explore and address wider issues around the promotion and management of good attendance and the prevention and reduction of absence. This guidance seeks to make stronger links between absence and the protection of children. Attendance is one of the five key drivers for raising attainment as part of the Scottish Attainment Challenge , alongside attainment, exclusion, engagement and participation.
This guidance also updates the language around attendance and absence to reflect the current thinking around supporting attendance and managing absence. Terms such as ‘truancy’ and ‘parental condoned absence’ are not used in this guidance.
This guidance is for schools and education authority staff. It makes general references to law and legislation but is not an authoritative statement of the law. Interpretation of the law is a matter for legal advisers and ultimately the courts. Education authorities may wish to take legal advice regarding any particular set of circumstances. Education authorities and schools also have a responsibility to ensure all staff are aware of this guidance.
There is an expectation that education authorities and schools will use this guidance to revise and review existing policies and procedures on attendance, taking account of local circumstances and involving all partners in the development of the new policy. Education authorities and schools should ensure that their policies are set against a framework within which schools, children and young people and parents can encourage and maintain a focus on wellbeing and an ethos of mutual respect and trust, in order to promote inclusion and a whole school ethos based on positive relationships.
Staff in Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings may also find this guidance useful as an indicator of good practice in the promotion of attendance and the prevention and reduction of absence.
Throughout this document the term parent(s) will be used to apply to anyone with parental responsibility, those providing a foster or residential placement, or the local authority where full parental responsibility rests with them. In the case of care experienced children and young people and those in kinship care, this is also taken to mean ‘carer’.
1.2 Guiding Principles
- All children and young people have a right to education; and education authorities have a duty to provide education.
- All children and young people have the right to get the support they need to benefit fully from their education and fulfil their potential.
- All children and young people need to be included, engaged and involved in their learning. Children and young people should be given opportunities to fully engage and participate in the life of their school in order to encourage good attendance.
- Schools should actively engage with parents to try to ensure that any barriers to good attendance are removed.
- Schools and partners should work collaboratively to promote and support good attendance.
- The foundation for schools, learning establishments and education authorities is a focus on positive relationships and an inclusive ethos and culture that promotes good attendance. Attendance should not be considered in isolation.
1.3 Current Policy Context
This section provides a brief summary of the policy context in which ‘Included, Engaged and Involved Part 1: A positive approach to the promotion and management of attendance in Scottish Schools is set. Since the last publication of ‘Included Engaged and Involved Part 1’ in December 2007, the policy and legislative landscape has changed and continues to increasingly emphasise the importance of wellbeing and relationships in shaping positive outcomes for children and young people. There is also an increasing emphasis on the promotion of children’s rights in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). The following policies support schools, children and young people and their families and partners to implement practices that will encourage good attendance.
Getting it right for every child is the national approach to improving outcomes for children and young people and takes a holistic approach to the wellbeing of the child or young person. Getting it right for every child advocates preventative work and early intervention to support children, young people and their families through the provision of strong universal services, and partnership working with other services when needed. The approach supports children and young people’s rights and involves children and young people in any decision that affect them in line with the core principles of UNCRC.
Getting it right for every child emphasises that while children and young people will have different experiences in their lives, all of them have the right to expect appropriate support from adults to allow them to grow and develop and to reach their full potential.
There is increasing awareness that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) can impact on the wellbeing and mental health of children and young people. Such adversity can influence their actions and behaviour. The potential for this, alongside their needs and rights, should be taken into account by schools when developing policies and approaches to supporting good attendance.
Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) promotes health and wellbeing in educational settings, recognising that positive relationships are the building blocks to developing children and young people’s resilience.
Developing the Young Workforce: Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy aims to ensure that there is a work relevant education experience on offer for all our young people and that a rich blend of learning, including vocational education, is valued.
The National Improvement Framework for Scottish Education aims to deliver excellence and equity and drive improvements in learning for individual children. As well as a focus on literacy and numeracy, it will also bring together greater focus to improvements in the health and wellbeing of children and young people. One of the key priorities within the National Improvement Framework is the closing of the poverty related attainment gap which is supported through the Scottish Attainment Challenge.
Giving every child and young person a strong start in life includes meeting the needs of children and young people who need more choices and chances, and who are more at risk of not engaging with or benefiting from compulsory education. Risks could relate to missing education for genuine reasons such as illness or through disengagement from education. The Scottish Government has prioritised supporting vulnerable children and families. A focus on children and young people who are looked after will be maintained as will a focus on children and young people living in disadvantaged areas.
There are particular responsibilities for local authorities as corporate parents of looked after children, whether looked after and accommodated (i.e. in foster care or residential care) or looked after at home (i.e. with birth parents or in kinship care). As corporate parents local authorities have a statutory responsibility to ensure that children and young people receive an education which is directed towards achieving their full potential (section 2(1) Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000).
Supporting Children’s Learning Code of Practice on the Education (Additional Support for Learning) Scotland Act 2004 (Third Edition. 2017) provides a framework for assessing children’s needs and helping them overcome barriers to learning by planning and collaborating to provide support. This must be used alongside the wellbeing indicators and the national practice model.
The National Child Protection Guidance 2014 indicates that all agencies that work with children and their families have a shared responsibility for protecting children and promoting, supporting and safeguarding their wellbeing. The importance of promoting good attendance at school is highlighted by concerns about the safety and wellbeing of children who are not at school. Child protection is of paramount importance and absence from school may indicate a child is at risk.
For every child or young person to achieve their potential, all schools should consider each pupil’s positive engagement with learning and their level of involvement in the school community. Attendance at school should be clearly linked to school’s overall approaches to promoting positive relationships and behaviour. Staged intervention structures and school’s ethos, cultures and values are fundamental to promoting positive relationships and behaviour.