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Campaign could be launched to encourage Wrexham parents to ensure children attend school

A CAMPAIGN to encourage parents in Wrexham to ensure their children attend school could be launched in a bid to cut absence rates.

Education watchdog Estyn previously raised concerns over attendance levels and pupils’ behaviour in the county borough’s secondary schools after publishing a damning report.

Figures for the 2018/19 school year show levels of persistent absenteeism stood at 5.4 per cent, which was above the all-Wales average of 4.6 per cent.

The collection of attendance data has since been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

However, improving attendance rates was flagged as one of the main recommendations by inspectors following their review in December 2019.

The issue was discussed at a meeting of Wrexham Council’s lifelong learning scrutiny committee on Thursday 16 April, where Labour group leader Dana Davies suggested the idea of starting a campaign targeted at parents.

The Ruabon councillor said: “With regards to parents’ attitudes or engagement in their child’s education, do we need to do some proactive campaign work in the area to educate parents?

“Our work with families at the moment could be perceived to be reactive and I think other local authorities do regular campaigns to educate their parents.

“There’s a new feeling across all the schools in Wrexham and I don’t know whether that’s because they’ve been through the mill as a result of the pandemic.

“They’ve all really come together in dealing with that and there does seem to be a new way of working where everybody’s working collectively to achieve that improvement across Wrexham.”

Statistics contained within a report to councillors show prosecutions against parents for pupils’ absence increased from 40 in 2016/17 to 57 in 2018/19.

Headteachers in Wrexham can apply to hand out £60 fines in a number of circumstances, including when there has been a minimum of ten unauthorised absences or instances of lateness in a single term.

Fixed penalty notices can also be issued to parents or carers who choose to take their children out of school on holiday during term time without authorisation on ten occasions.

The local authority said none had been given out recently due to the Welsh Government advising against punishing parents during the coronavirus pandemic.

Chief education officer Karen Evans said attendance rates in Wrexham had mostly been positive since pupils returned to classrooms overthe last month, but welcomed the idea of starting a campaign.

She said: “There is a sense of real enthusiasm to come back to school.

“In the last two days, for example, our primary attendance data is around 96 per cent, which is sound.

“What we need to do, working with our schools, is to ensure that that sense of enthusiasm is now captured and capitalised on.

“Because of the rigour of the data systems we’ve got in place, we want to make sure that we’re picking up any issues as and when they arise.

“I think the suggestion of a campaign or an engagement with parents is something that we definitely should be taking forward to constantly reinforce the detrimental impact that poor attendance can have on the progress that children make academically.”

Councillors voted to back the measures being taken to improve attendance rates at the end of the meeting.

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