The academy is supported by the trust to ensure a large pastoral support staff can meet the needs of our very vulnerable students. By using CLFP (curriculum led financial planning) and running a contact ratio of 0.79 and an average class size of 27 (with a bonus of no more than 8%), the trust controls finances to ensure even a smaller than average secondary such as North Shore Academy can maintain such a huge team.
The team consists of: non-teaching learning managers to run a year group each; an attendance and cover manager; an education welfare officer; a safeguarding and well-being officer; a Bridge manager; a Personalised Learning Centre (PLC) manager; a Personalised Development Centre (PDC) manager; a SEND-Co; an inclusion coordinator; an inclusion administrator; a Deep Support vice principal; designated, specialist teaching assistants in Maths and English; designated general teaching assistants; temporary teaching assistants to support EHCP students using higher needs funding.
Where possible as many of these key staff share work spaces to improve communication. For example the attendance and cover manager, education welfare officer and safeguarding and well-being officer will share an office; 2-3 learning managers will share an office; the inclusion coordinator (non-teaching member of SLT who line manages all pastoral staff) and the SEND-Co and the inclusion administrator will also share an office.
The attendance and cover manager hands the education welfare officer a list of students in need of immediate home visits from the morning’s early calls/the preceding day’s absences and these begin before the academy day has started. Where possible these homes are grouped together using a postcode analysis to ensure maximum efficiency from visits. 10 minutes into the academy day and a new list of priority home visits is collated and circulated to learning managers, the safeguarding and well-being officer and, in some cases, key members of SLT. Visits begin immediately and are, again, grouped together by postcode where possible.
Staff approach home visits with a view that their job is to bring students back into the academy having solved an issue. A list of all home visits conducted that day and a short summary of the outcome is collated and left on the principal’s desk each evening. Home visits are prioritised for vulnerable red students where there is a potential safeguarding element to non-attendance, those students with a social worker, year 11 key amber students from the RAG and then others as necessary. At the same time other pastoral staff indicated above will target ‘easier wins’ and visit students who are not ordinarily absent and/or have poorer/no reason for absence and there is therefore a higher probability that the student can be collected and brought into school.
Staff leave calling cards if there is no answer. Staff also hold challenging conversations with parents, or support and assist if needed, in order that every adult works together to ensure the student is supported to return to the academy. If the absent student has a social worker academy staff communicate any absences and the outcome of any home visits. Home visits for ‘safe and well checks’ where the academy needs to see the student but is aware there is no realistic chance of return that day and there is no imminent safeguarding risk always take place at the end of the day by the safeguarding and well-being officer to maximise work with those students who could be in school that day. However, external agency communication for these students may well have been ongoing throughout the day in advance.
The academy has a 3 stage approach to managing students’ absences. If attendance drops below 97% (a high threshold to ensure support and monitoring are initiated very early) then parents/carers receive a letter outlining that improvements are needed and monitoring will take place from the attendance and cover manager for 4 weeks and there must not be any further absences (any absence early in the plan is considered an immediate failure to improve and the student and their parent/carer move to the next stage immediately, as opposed to after the full 4 weeks and potential further absences). This immediate monitoring and intervention provides a valuable opportunity for parents/carers to flag at this early stage if there are any potential barriers to strong attendance and support that is needed before absence could become more protracted. In all cases this letter is supported by a quick meeting with the student and also a call to the parent/carer to contextualise the letter.
If a student subsequently fails to improve their attendance they move to a formal monitoring period for 4 weeks. At this point the student and their parent/carer attend a meeting with the student’s learning manager and a template is used to complete the formal 4 week plan. An attendance target is set and any necessary further support is outlined clearly. If the student does not meet the target set in the plan then they again move immediately to the next stage in the process without delay.
At this point, the student and their parent/carer attend a meeting with the education welfare officer to explore the reasons for continued absences further. At this stage further support is initiated if needed. However, at this stage the academy is also very clear of the potential legal ramifications if attendance does not improve and the EWO will be clear that this plan really does need to work and all adults must work together to secure immediate impact.
All current plans are monitored weekly for impact through the attendance dashboard and the attendance officer will direct next actions as appropriate in their weekly monitoring meeting with learning managers and the wider pastoral team outlined above. The attendance officer keeps all plans on file and initiates all letters and follow up admin, daily and without any delay.
If a student has 100% attendance on either an EWO or Learning manager plan a letter/ phone call is made to the parent (and the learning manager meets with the student quickly in school to praise) explaining that they have passed the attendance plan. However, the call and/or letter make it very clear the attendance is continued to be monitored (essentially a move back to attendance manager plan) and if they have another day off in a quick duration they will be invited in for another meeting and the case could be escalated to the EWO stage. This latter action is absolutely crucial in ensuring students do not immediately regress with attendance having completed their plan and it is also repeated at the EWO stage too.
Failure to successfully complete the final stage of the academy procedures outlined above will lead to a referral to the Local Authority to commence an ACC (attendance case conference) and initiate formal legal proceedings. The academy continues to work with LA caseload officers and still retains responsibility for many of the support strategies within the new plan. The academy also continues first day absence calls; communication with parents/carers; home visits; and obviously all forms of internal support mechanisms to support attendance.
The academy uses extensive partnership/multi-agency work with a range of specialist services including, but not exclusive to, CAMHS; social care; Specialist Teaching Service, North East Autism Society; LA specialist teams; virtual head; Ed. Psych; Police; etc. and always endeavours to make referrals and follow up caseload impact and professional challenge where applicable.
All students open to external services are recorded on the academy Vulnerable Students Register and monitored weekly through the Inclusion Meeting and half termly through the SLT STEPs report (see resource folder).
There is a rigorous, thorough and unwavering approach to monitoring and driving up rates of attendance. By 8.45am the vice principal, Deep Support, will be aware of the current rate of attendance for the day and the ongoing actions to drive this up and address any issues. The safeguarding and well-being officer, education welfare officer and learning managers will be out on home visits. By 9.30am an updated am % figure will be provided to the vice principals and principal. Ongoing actions will continue to try to affect the pm attendance %. At the end of the day learning managers record their year group attendance % on an attendance whiteboard in the principal’s office. This is always a manual task and put physically on the board, as opposed to on a spreadsheet or email, to ensure immediate communication and a sense of shared accountability.
A daily attendance tracker is sent to the executive principal by email- this shows attendance for the day for all key groups and compares to the same date last year, 2 years ago and 3 years ago to monitor trends and patterns. The outcome of home visits document outlined above is placed on the principal’s desk and sent the executive principal. All attendance actions and interventions are updated that day by the attendance officer on the master tracker.
Students record their attendance weekly in their planners in a designated tutor period. Each half term they also record their attendance in a monitoring page in planners. As part of this process, teachers display a BRAG presentation to the tutor group and students respond to their name by recording their attendance and then collecting a sticker on placing onto a display by their name under the correct week. A blue sticker means 100% attendance, green means above 97%, amber above 90% and red is PA and under 90%. Instructions as to any vulnerable students where use of this system is not appropriate is fed to tutors weekly in the L&P staff training session.
There is a standing agenda item for all trust academies of ‘attendance’. The vice principal, Deep Support, presents up to date statistics for cumulative and weekly attendance, broken down by key groups, and also circulates SLT mentoring lists for key students at risk of becoming PA or, with targeted support and no absences for 2 weeks, able to move from PA. SLT members update on their actions. SLT year group links are expected to have spoken to all students in their year group who were absent for any reason the week before and record responses on a sheet- although these sheets are not QA’s in SLT, they can be requested at any time.
SLT carry out this task throughout the week whilst on duty/learning walks. This greatly reduces the likelihood of some students missing school for poor reasons, as they soon realise a senior leader will want to ask them why they were off and support/challenge if needed.
The trust operates an attendance dashboard. This pulls straight from our MIS and updates overnight. This dashboard is self-regulated and requires no human input, allowing resources and time to be directed to working with students. This dashboard shows daily, weekly and cumulative patterns of attendance for all key groups and compares to national averages and also to academy previous years (similar to the daily/weekly tracker above but much more detailed). The CEO, deputy CEO and executive principals can see all dashboards instantly and principals and SLT all have access to their local tracker.
Current rates of attendance are a key feature of monthly Academy Network Meetings, at which all principals stand and address their peers and present on predicted end of year outcomes and other good news stories/required updates.
The trust data team run regular reports on the use of different registration codes and compare academy percentages per head to ensure all coding is accurate and there is no disproportionate use of any B/C/D/IO2/X codes etc.
Principals send a weekly report to the CEO, deputy CEO and senior/executive principals- this contains key information on attendance for the previous week (including that of SEND/PP students) and also the amount of students progressing to each stage of our attendance protocols that week and therefore also cumulatively. This allows key senior trust staff to monitor the amount of interventions being used and compare this to current rates of attendance and the amount of PA students in each academy to ensure our policy is being used accurately.
Regular reports are provided to trustees at board meetings on a termly basis. Trustees scrutinise these reports and ensure appropriate use of enhanced funding streams (e.g. PP grant) are allocated to enhanced interventions where necessary (such as LA SLAs for attendance support).
The trust board have a delegated sub-committee to monitor each academy locally- this is called an academy council. In some instances schools in a close geographical area are monitored as a cluster and have a joint academy council. The academy council meets half termly and in each meeting the principal presents a report, of which a key feature is current and cumulative rates of attendance and PA, as well as a key safeguarding and vulnerable students update. This regular local scrutiny again ensures that interventions are appropriate and are having impact for students.
All key pastoral staff meet weekly for an inclusion meeting. This is chaired by the vice principal, Deep Support, and normal attendees include learning managers, inclusion coordinator, attendance manager, EWO, bridge manager, PLC manager and safeguarding and wellbeing officer. All red vulnerable students are discussed weekly and all amber and green students monitored to ensure their safeguarding position is still stable. All PA students would always be classed as at least vulnerable amber, and more often than not vulnerable red.
The inclusion meeting is fast paced, solution focussed and always applies the ‘4i model’ of gathering the necessary information, identifying the key issues, implementing effective, bespoke intervention and then monitoring the impact. Where there is no impact new interventions are put in place and a multi-agency approach adopted as soon as possible.
The trust provides high level internal provisions to support the most vulnerable students in times of difficulty. All referrals into these provisions come through the inclusion meeting above or, in times of the need for an immediate response that day, through only the vice principal, Deep Support.
The Bridge is a nurturing, quiet and calm facility that provides intense wrap-around care for students in a time of crisis. Students using the Bridge may have mental health, SEND, bereavement, CP, , medical, family or peer issues and mainstream lessons may not be an appropriate starting point. Bridge placements can be red, amber or green following a ‘helicopter’ model. Bridge red students will be full time in the Bridge and follow their expectant curriculum under supervision of the bridge manager. Lessons and materials are provided by teachers via an ‘in tray’ and books collected for marking via an ‘out tray’ weekly. Bridge amber students will attend some lessons and be in the Bridge for the remainder. Bridge green students will be in most, if not all lessons, but access the provision on a drop-in model during social times or through a lesson pass coordinated through the inclusion meeting. Breakfast is always provided in the Bridge, as well as break and after school snacks. A maximum of 6-8 students will be Bridge red at any time.
The Personalised Learning Centre (PLC) is a bespoke provision for students showing signs of disaffection and picking up too many sanctions. Students receive a half term placement following a planning meeting with parents/carers. A clear entry and exit plan is drafted with review periods and success criteria (this is also true for extended Bridge red placements as above to ensure students do not become over-reliant on the provision and not see a return to mainstream as the end point). Students in the PLC will also often have a risk assessment. PLC placements combine following the expectant curriculum (as per the model above) and some bespoke personal development work to build selfesteem, self-worth, resilience and ability to manage social norms and interact appropriately with peers and adults. Students in PLC groups have a ‘project’ for the half termusually linked with charity or some form of social action activity and deliver assemblies and whole school work to build their focus and change peer and staff perceptions of them and ensure they are seen as a force for good. The final week of a placement sees the PLC manager and a TA support students in a phased return to classes- teachers are briefed on areas of strength and areas students and their parents/carers have identified as requiring further support. A student profile (ILP) is often distributed to all staff.
The Personalised Development Centre (PDC) is a further provision to support students. Referrals to the PDC can only come from the principal. The PDC provision is used to support when students present behaviour which would ordinarily have resulted in a possible suspension. When ‘flipping the culture’ leaders are unapologetic in challenging inappropriate conduct that crosses one of our ‘red lines’.
Examples include assault; verbal abuse and/or threatening behaviour; refusal to follow a reasonable request from a senior leader etc. etc. In schools with a culture of noncompliance it is not unusual for multiple students to present these behaviours daily and therefore intervening with large numbers at this stage is quite often not possible. However, once North Shore Academy was further on its journey we were able to introduce the PDC and make referrals into this provision to support and challenge these behaviours 1-1 or in very small groups of 1-3, for example. Students are referred to the PDC by the principal and spend the day (or two/three) in the provision. Their day(s) follow the expectant curriculum but also provide time to ‘unpick’ the issue and behaviour which was seen as inappropriate. Conduct in this provision is expected to be exemplary, and it is made very clear this in an alternative to a suspension. If students are referred into the PDC for refusing or not succeeding in a sanction situation (such as a C5 supervision day) they are still expected to complete that sanction immediately after the intervention and before returning to mainstream. Students still accrue a ‘tariff’ on their individual inclusion tracker, which is used to monitor the amount of sanctioned a student has received and the resulting interventions needed to get them back on track and engaging with school.
‘Student Tracking of Effort and Progress’ (STEPs) is used to monitor all aspects of academy performance. The 4i model (outlined above) is used throughout this process. Staff enter data half termly recording the effort of all students in their classes from E1(star student) to E4 (needs improvement). Staff also enter predictions for the end of y11 attainment for all KS4 exam classes. Staff also enter actual assessment raw marks for KS3 classes twice per year. Learning managers and SLT then use this data to identify where there are issues with performance/engagement and coordinate appropriate intervention. All class teachers select 6 students (sometimes principals direct who these students are- for example SEND, PP, SEND boys, PP high ability boys) or select specific progress students and staff must use this direction when selecting from their individual class lists. Staff then select bespoke interventions within/outside of class to address any under-performance or engagement with these specific students. A thorough QA process is led by HoDs and then QAd further by SLT. As part of this process it is usual for students who have had multiple bouts of absence to be selected for ‘4i’ and staff map out how they will address potential gaps in learning.
All vulnerable red students are also mapped out and their performance analysed and appropriate interventions applied. All of this information is collated into a booklet and presented to SLT.
At the next round of STEPs in the next half term staff start by adding an ‘impact’ comment to the previously assigned 4i students; this also applies to section 1 of the STEP booklet. The whole process then starts again with fresh intervention for new ‘4i’ students or those remaining on 4i lists or in the vulnerable students register and therefore STEP booklet.
This thorough programme ensures timely support for the most vulnerable, those showing signs of disaffection and those who are not as vulnerable or disaffected but are still under-performing. By intervening in the classroom and in a pastoral sense, sometimes simultaneously, needs are met much quicker and improved performance leads to greater engagement and, ultimately, better attendance.
The half termly booklet is present in person to SLT by learning managers. We feel it essential that all senior staff know the vulnerable red students, what their barriers to learning are and what we need to do to support them. The presentation and resulting interventions adopt a ‘no excuses’ culture and we do not expect less of these students, but strive to help them reach the levels others can.
The academy uses a multitude of wider school experiences and cultural aspects to ensure that students want to attend. We do not feel sharing all of these is necessarily the best approach but we have included them as an initiative list below. This training video discusses the culture we have created as a trust to ensure that there is innovation, creativity and systems constantly evolve to meet student need. It is this aspect that we feel school leaders will benefit most from discussing with your teams
Good attendance is recognised, praised and rewarded in the academy. Although trust leaders recognise the importance of intrinsic motivation and the best reward being an outstanding educational experience, we do also allow some traditional style material rewards to recognise those with rapid improvement or maintaining outstanding levels. Attendance certificates are issued in assemblies and in tutor time; breakfast/break treats for the best attending tutor group are issued weekly; 88-92% attenders who are PA or edge of PA who are targeted for SLT mentoring receive prizes for full attendance that week (monitoring cards signed and praised and stationary used); Attendance Hero bags (with school stationary in) are used to reward students with drastic improvements in attendance each week/half term; there is a half-termly ‘In It To Win It’ draw with students given entries in a draw commensurate with their attendance and educational prizes such a books, Kindles etc. used as rewards.
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