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News

Statement from the National Executive - Penalty Notices

Penalty Notices and Every Day at School Counts: a statement from the Association for Education Welfare Management (AEWM)

The AEWM represents individuals who are working in positions of responsibility to improve pupil attendance in schools, services and local authorities throughout England. Those members have been facing huge operational difficulties since recent judgments involving 'the Isle of Wight' case.

The most important view of the AEWM is that every day's attendance at school is important to a child's well being. There is clear evidence that absence from school is linked to lower levels of attainment at school. Children are required to attend school on 190 days in a year of 365 days (Maintained schools are open 190 days in a year of 365 days and children are expected to attend each day unless there is a reason not to authorised by the school – Academies & independent schools can set their own school year) .

It is clear that the remaining days allow plenty of time for quality family based activities and holidays. Whilst it is true that there are real cost issues relating to holidays this should never be a consideration that allows a child to miss school. The AEWM welcomes the recent correspondence from Nick Gibb, Minister of State for Schools regarding the current position. We support the emphasis on every days attendance counting and the taking of additional steps necessary to secure children's attendance at school.

The AEWM, whilst respecting the judgment of the High Court, believes the thinking of the court is flawed and welcomes further appeal and / or change of policy and legislation that removes the current doubt and mixed messages following the judgment. We would suggest regular attendance at school is each and every day it is open for education.

The suggestion that 90% is acceptable may lead some young people not to aspire to 100%. Currently local authority officers have to take into account a range of factors including the particular circumstances of the case, a range of case law and now the Isle of Wight judgment in the consideration of taking legal action. We would encourage both schools and those engaged in improving and ensuring attendance to continue to take a tough stance on absence for holidays in term time and continue not to authorise the absence unless there are exceptional reasons.

We support the DfE advice not to repay paid penalty notices and we further welcome robust local authority actions to defend any appeals against Magistrates Court decisions. For the future, we are recommending a single national code of conduct on the issuing of penalty notices for absence from school. We believe that penalty notices could be a civil matter, not pursued in the criminal courts, allowing for the criminal court action route to be for more serious or repeat offenders.

The national code of conduct should be clear on definitions of absence and periods of absence that need to be considered. We also support the maintenance of flexibility for schools and local authorities to decide on the issuing of penalty notices that ensures that where absence is essential that can be authorised. In the meantime, we will continue to support, advise and share good practice amongst members of the AEWM in these difficult times. Our support to colleagues is based on our passionate belief in ensuring that children have full access to every day at school.

National Executive Committee AEWM

AEWM Conference 2015

The AEWM National Conference 2015

Welcome from the President Julie Weddell

I was delighted to welcome over 80 delegates at this year's conference.   The room was buzzing with committed attendance leaders from LAs and schools and consultants sharing their practices with each other  

The speakers of the day were all very informative, inspirational and relevant to the work of education welfare management. Of special interest was the presentation from the Assistant Director, Achievement and Disadvantage Team, DFE which included the Prime Minister's recent announcement on the proposal for unpaid fines to be taken from child benefits and the NCB and HMI concerns regarding CME procedures which will lead to a pupil registrations reform. The audience were given time to share their views and the Association looks forward to further discussions with DFE on these important subjects.

AEWM NEC have discussed reintroducing a two day annual conference to enable more networking, but understand this is not viable these days as it is so difficult to get time away from the workplace. However, we continue to encourage more regional meetings as the groups that do meet regularly find these invaluable to exchange information and support members to find the most efficient ways of working.

The venue and date for our next free training event was announced at conference - 25th May 2016 at the Ardent Hotel in Birmingham for members

We have summarised the presentations below for those who were unable to attend the conference and copies of the PowerPoint are available to members in the member forum:

Chris Kiernan previously a Director of Children's services and Currently Interim Manager kindly opened the conference.   Chris was appointed to the post of Director of Education for the London Borough of Waltham Forest in 2004 and became its first director of Children's Services in 2006. Since retiring in 2011 he has worked as an interim manager in various roles, including Director and head of School Improvement Posts

Michael Gooch, Strategic Lead for Attendance for the London Borough of Islington his presentation centred on strategic approaches to achieving good attendance at school which is the single most protective factor to ensure that young people have the maximum life chances - attendance is strongly linked to educational achievement. Promoting positive school attendance is everyone's responsibility.

Deborah Bell Magistrate – provided an interesting presentation “The Magistrates Tale” and covered areas such as Reparation, Deterrence, Reformation, Protection and Punishment around sentencing.

Sandra Rothwell Chair of the National Network Child Employment &Entertainment provided conference with an update on the issuing surrounding child employment and entertainment.

Stefano Pozzi, Assistant Director, Achievement and Disadvantaged Team (DfE) delivered a presentation about challenges for schools and local authorities on improving attendance and safety. He provided information on the government’s future approach to penalty fines and changes to the registration regulations, please see the member forum for access to the presentation.

David Etheridge OBE Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Service provided an informative presentation on the PREVENT agenda one of the four key components of the government’s Counter Extremism Strategy CONTEST. David was awarded the OBE for his services to the community in the new Years honours List 2015.

Benedict Ashmore-Short the Principal of the Hamford Primary Academy provided an uplifting presentation on how attendance is at the heart of school improvement, a journey from special measures. Benedict was the Pearson Primary Head Teacher of the Year for 2014, he is a regular contributor and public speaker in the education press, events and conferences. 

Jenny Dodd and David Harvey provided the final presentation for conference on Elective Home Education – excitement and opportunity. Jenny and David are the joint chairs National Association for Elective Home Education.

In Closing

If you are a member of AEWM and you attended the conference you will know that the content of the conference was again of a high standard but if you are not yet a member now is the time to think about joining us, next year’s conference will not be that far away.

Please do not redistribute without permission material provided at the conference