LETTERS reminding parents of the importance of their child attending school will be sent to thousands of Carmarthenshire homes shortly.
Gareth Morgans, the council’s head of education and children’s services, said it was one of several measures being deployed to improve the county’s attendance stats.
The letters will go to every school parent and carer.
Primary school attendance in 2017-18 was the lowest in Wales’s 22 council areas although the 93.9% figure was far from disastrous.
Secondary school attendance was 93.8%, putting Carmarthenshire 11th in the table.
Both numbers had declined from the previous year and Mr Morgans told an education and children scrutiny committee that the 2018-19 figures, though not published yet, had not seen an improvement.
“It is a concern for us,” he said. “But one thing we need to consider is that the gap between the best and worst (attendance in Wales) is very small – about 2%.”
Mr Morgans said attendance would be the focus of an education safeguarding team, comprising a social worker and education staff, and extra advice will be given to schools who have vulnerable children on their roll.
“Schools are working very hard,” he said. “There are families who are very difficult to reach and change their patterns and habits.”
He added: “We will be more consistent in how we challenge absence in schools.”
Some councillors questioned the robustness of the statistics, given Carmarthenshire’s above-average exam results.
Cllr Darren Price said: “I can’t see how this is happening. Is there consistency on a national level?”
Cllr Kim Broom said one of her children had been marked as absent from school when they were at a different location for a week-long assignment.
Mr Morgans said he understood that the Welsh Government no longer moderated the attendance figures submitted by individual councils.
Carmarthenshire’s position, he said, “does not strike a chord with me”.
But Mr Morgans added that school governors would receive extra training and that absence “coding” by schools would be examined.
“Coding is an issue that we have to take a look at,” he said.
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