Agenda item

School Attendance as a Public Health Outcome


38.1     The Board considered a report on School Attendance as a Public Health Outcome. The report was introduced by Alison Jeffery, Director of Children’s Services and Sarah Speedie, Strategic Lead for Education Improvement. School attendance is listed as one of the Public Health outcomes on the Public Health Outcomes Framework and is vitally important for attainment and the life chances of children and young people. The Covid pandemic has had a huge impact on school attendance and the report outlines the work that is being undertaken to tackle this issue and the other factors that contribute to poor attendance.


38.2     Board members commented that it was a useful and timely report, and it was good to have a clear information on school attendance in the county. Board members considered the development of an attendance delivery plan and single point of contact for schools as very positive and were be interested to see the impact of the proposals contained in the report. Sarah Speedie outlined that East Sussex is one of the first local authorities to develop a single point of contact for attendance and this mirrors the emerging statutory guidance from the Department for Education.


38.3     Councillor Maynard commented that it was important to embed the expectation that all children should attend school and to encourage children to want to attend school especially at primary level. It is also important to ensure that home educated children get a good quality education as the numbers of children being home educated are rising.


38.4     Dr Stehen Pike commented that there is an opportunity for schools to be involved with the new Integrated Care Teams (ICTs). For example, secondary schools working with GP surgeries, and ICTs could also establish more community relationships with health services and schools. This could include working with primary and early years settings to establish good behaviours early on.


38.5     Darrell Gale, Director of Public Health commented that it was an excellent report which bench marked current school attendance, establishes what we need to do and what is being done to tackle attendance. Although some parental attitudes persist from lockdown, schools are places of protection and opportunities for life courses and should not be seen merely as places of infection.


38.6     Stephen Lightfoot, Chair of NHS Sussex asked if it was possible to interrogate the 3% to 4% of absences that were attributed to illness to explore any themes that emerge and cross check with health programmes such as those for vaccinations. Sarah Speedie responded that the information was provided via a coded system and would have to go away and see how far it would be possible to drill down into the data to look patterns and trends.


38.7     Dr Stephen Pike asked if children’s mental health is an issue. Alison Jeffery responded that there is a lot of emotional school avoidance. She added that the Education Division has been shaped to support vulnerable children and has a team passionate about their work to support children. The school attendance links to public health also helps to increase the authority of the Council when speaking to schools and parents about attendance.


38.8     The Chair thanked officers for the report and commented that there was more work to do to recover from the impact of Covid and the effect on attendance and the life chances of children.


38.9     The Board RESOLVED to note the report, the areas of challenge and the proposed course of action.


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