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Portsmouth City Council launches new school attendance campaign

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Portsmouth City Council 2011Portsmouth City Council is aiming to improve school attendance levels with a new campaign running in schools across the city.

Last year, one in five students in the city each had at least one week of unauthorised absence from school, missing about 25 lessons and leaving gaps in their learning which make it harder for them to achieve their full academic potential.

The new Miss School, Miss Out campaign aims to tackle this issue by highlighting to parents and pupils what children can achieve if they have good attendance and reach their full potential as well as illustrating how missing school can limit their future lives.

There will also be a focus on trying to reduce absences where children miss school with a minor ailment when they could be in class.

Cllr Suzy Horton, Portsmouth City Council's Cabinet Member for Education, said: "It's a legal requirement for children to be in education and many parents are doing a great job in getting their children to school on time every day. We don't have a problem with children who are off school for legitimate reasons, such as serious illness, but we want to make parents think again if they believe it's okay for their children to miss a day's education without good reason.

"We'll also be highlighting NHS advice to parents so they are fully aware when it is recommended children stay at home due to illness and when they're okay to go to school. I'm concerned that too many children are regularly missing out on their education without good reason, which will affect them in later life. Schools offer a range of opportunities, both in and beyond lessons; learning experiences that will open doors for children for the rest of their lives and it’s important that all children have the same chance to experience them."

The new campaign uses two approaches; an aspirational one - titled 'What you could become' - which shows Portsmouth pupils looking in the mirror at a representation of what their future jobs and careers could be if they go to school regularly, and a second theme - called 'Your life depends on it' - aimed at secondary school pupils, which uses stronger imagery to highlight how the outcome of a student's life depends on them committing to achieving high attendance rates.

The concepts were developed with feedback from residents, parents, pupils and teachers and will be used in school assemblies and newsletters, across social media and in relevant locations across the city, with a variety of images to reach different types of student and parent.

Term time absence approved by head teachers is authorised absence. Any absence not approved by the head teacher is an unauthorised absence and includes time off for shopping, birthdays, holidays, visiting relatives, getting up late and days out.

Parents whose children have 10 half-day sessions, the equivalent of a full week's school, of unauthorised absence in one term can be issued with a penalty notice and be required to pay a fine of £60.

Explaining the rationale for the campaign, Alison Jeffery, director of children, families and education, said: "We hope to get people thinking about the impact it has on children when they don't attend school regularly. I would urge parents who are having difficulty getting their children into school, or who suspect that their children might not be attending school when they should, to contact the school and work with them to find a solution. We need everyone to get behind this so that all Portsmouth children achieve the best they possibly can."

Further information can be found at www.portsmouth.gov.uk/attendance

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