The Perfect Storm

On 19th August 2024 the Department for Education’s ‘Working Together to Improve School Attendance’ statutory guidance comes into force.

This new guidance is for schools, academy trusts, governing bodies and local authorities on maintaining high levels of school attendance and details all the parties’ roles and responsibilities.

The new guidance penalises parents for unauthorised attendance, irregular attendance and culminates in magistrate court appearances, a criminal record and fines of £2500 per child, per parent.

Worcestershire parent carers are reporting to WPCF that their anxiety is building as these new attendance regulations approach enforcement. WPCF share their concerns and worry that the ‘perfect storm’ is approaching and that families of children with special education needs and disabilities are going to be adversely and significantly impacted.

  • Attendance regulations adversely affects neurodivergent learners and especially those without a diagnosis, whom are at greater risk of developing Emotional Based School Avoidance (EBSA).
  • The same undiagnosed ND students are also experiencing extensive delays in accessing community paediatrics and the umbrella diagnostic pathway – delays of up to 3 years!
  • Students who were looking to access the ADHD diagnostic pathway have been refused access due to parents being unwilling or unable to undertake a parenting course that was written for neurotypical children. This decision was recently overturned, but it is unclear how many families were affected.
  • Children without a formal neurodivergent diagnosis regularly report to us that they are unable to access the SEN support that their child needs to maintain good levels of attendance.
  • Parent carers turning to their GP for support for their SEND child and their EBSA will be receiving advice that follows the guidance issued to GPs by the ICB earlier this year. This guidance instructs GPs to direct parents back to schools for support, instructs GPs not to issue sick notes and not to request that schools commission missing reports or initiate EHCP needs assessments.
  • KPIs from WCF document that the overall attendance for SEND pupils in Worcestershire is at 90% – an attendance percentage that under the new regulations would be classed as “persistent and severe absence” and the starting point for more formal proceedings.

WCF are preparing schools for the new guidance via a ‘Worcestershire Attendance Forum’ Event on the 1st July 2024.

At last week’s ‘SEND & Alternative Provision Partnership Board’ meeting, WPCF’s Co-Chair Hazel Shaw raised our concerns that Worcestershire parent carers (unlike Worcestershire education professionals) are not being issued with appropriate information and support relating to the new attendance guidance.

Sarah Wilkins, Director for Education, Early Years, Inclusion and Place Planning at Worcestershire Children First has promised to update WPCF on the impact of the new attendance regulations for Worcestershire’s SEND students and what support and advice is available for parent carers.

Meanwhile, we would welcome feedback from Worcestershire parent carers on how their SEND families are affected.

Useful links:

The Children’s Commissioner has published guidance for parents on school attendance to help parents understand how they can work with their school and local authority to support their children to attend school and get the right support.