Bid to stamp out absences

Melinda Tilley

Melinda Tilley

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Education Reporter, also covering West Oxford. Call me on (01865) 425437

A SPECIALIST council team is tackling high absence rates at two city secondary schools, despite them being academies.

Oxfordshire County Council has confirmed it is sending in a school improvement officer to St Gregory the Great Catholic School, in Cricket Road, and Oxford Academy, in Sandy Lane West, Littlemore.

Both are academies and fall under the control of their sponsors – the Dominic Barberi Multi Academy Company and the Diocese of Oxford, respectively.

But Melinda Tilley, pictured, the county council’s member for education, said the council-paid officers were intervening to establish why the absence rates were so poor even though the academies could ignore their advice.

She said: “We are in a bit of a difficult position because academies don’t have to take our help or listen to us.

“We do often find they do want our advice, as they want to find out what the problem is too, but they are under no obligation now they are academies.”

Department for Education (DfE) statistics show St Gregory the Great had an absence rate of 7.1 per cent for the autumn term, making it the second worst Catholic secondary school in the country according to John Howson, the county council’s Liberal Democrat spokesman for education.

The average in the county for long-term absence – missing at least 22 sessions (half a day) of school a term – was 6.7 per cent, compared to a national picture of 5.9 per cent.

Oxford Academy, which is in special measures, had absence rates of 7.9 per cent, which Mr Howson said puts it in the bottom 150 in the country. A council officer has been helping at the school for several months.

A DfE spokesman said local authorities do retain an interest in schools and children’s welfare, but it was up to the individual academies to allow local authority visits.

He added: “Academies are held more rigorously to account than council-run schools. We have consistently demonstrated quick and decisive action if children are being denied the education they deserve – no matter what type of school they attend.”

Both schools said they are actively tackling absenteesim.

John Hussey, executive headteacher at St Gregory the Great and a director of sponsor Dominic Barberi Multi Academy Company, said he was surprised by the council’s intervention given it had been given an award by it for reducing persistent absenteeism this year.

He said the winter had higher absences due to illness – which accounted for 3.77 per cent of absences during that period.

Mr Hussey said: “We are on the case. We are going to have to give more resources into getting out there and getting them into school, but we have our budget and that has to go towards things like employing teachers.”

Niall McWilliams, principal of Oxford Academy, said: “It is improving but we know it is still not good enough. We are very conscious of it and there are strategies in place to drive absences down.”

Anne Davey, director of education for the Oxford Academy sponsor the Diocese of Oxford said: “We take attendance issues very seriously. The Governing body of the academy monitors attendance on a monthly basis and is working with the senior leadership team to address this. Next year we will have mentors working with families and students to help them understand the importance of going to school.

“Despite being an academy and therefore not maintained by the local authority, we are fortunate to have a really good working relationship and benefit from county council support in a number of areas of the school’s development.”

Mr Howson was concerned about the council stepping in with an academy, where responsibility lies with the DfE.

He said: “For a multi-academy trust to be employing an expensive executive headteacher it should really have been on top of the problem. I have asked whether Ofsted and the new Regional Schools Commissioner should intervene.

“The county council is short of money and it raises the question about who runs the schools now that they are academies. If it is the DfE then they should be spending the cash to sort it out and the county council saving its money for other things.”

AT A GLANCE

The average for long-term absence – missing at least 22 sessions
(half a day) of school a term

  • The Oxford Academy           7.9%
  • St Gregory the Great            7.1%
  • North Oxfordshire Academy  6.8%
  • Oxfordshire                         6.7%
  • Nationally                            5.9%

Our top stories:

Firefighters battle loft blaze in Witney

Oxford Mail: Fire engine Oxfordshire

10:01am Sunday 21st December 2014

FIREFIGHTERS were able to stop a roof fire spreading and destroying the rest of the house last night.

What brilliant picture is in our Oxford Mail Advent Calendar today?

Oxford Mail:

6:00am Tuesday 9th December 2014

December is Advent Calendar time and we have a special new interactive graphic for you each and every day until Christmas Eve. I've chosen the best 24 pictures of 2014 and I'll be unveiling one a day - so what is behind's today's door?

Skye Hall's family: Our first Christmas without our brave son

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Saturday 20th December 2014

LOOM bands are taking over the house of Skye Hall’s family as they prepare to spend their first Christmas without the brave youngster who died in August.

Hudspeth backs councillors in demand to be told man's pay in allowances row

Oxford Mail: Ian Hudspeth

8:30am Saturday 20th December 2014

OXFORDSHIRE County Council leader Ian Hudspeth has backed councillors Rodney Rose and Kevin Bulmer who asked a voter to reveal his wages when he challenged them over a 19 per cent hike in their allowance.

Two arrested for GBH after man injured in fight

Oxford Mail:

5:24pm Saturday 20th December 2014

Two teenagers from Witney were arrested last night after a man suffered a broken arm.

Oxfam "accepts" tweet ruling

Oxford Mail:

2:23pm Saturday 20th December 2014

OXFAM has said it accepts criticism from charity regulators over an alleged “party political” tweet about a “perfect storm” of poverty.

Ambulance managers shown as Nazis in Downfall video parody

Oxford Mail:

7:10am Saturday 20th December 2014

A VIDEO portraying South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) bosses as Nazi military officials has emerged on YouTube.

Council tax could go up more than was first thought

Oxford Mail: New Oxfordshire county council logo

9:30am Saturday 20th December 2014

COUNCIL tax in Oxfordshire may go up by more than originally planned after the Government laid out its plans for local authority income.

Oxford United look to spoil Hartlepool's party

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Saturday 20th December 2014

Andy Whing says Oxford United should expect to beat Hartlepool United this afternoon despite the Football League’s bottom club appointing a new manager this week.

Hoodie robbers sought

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley Police logo

9:10am Saturday 20th December 2014

Two men tried to rob a 22-year-old woman of her handbag in St Giles in Oxford.

27 drink-drive arrests

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley Police logo

9:10am Saturday 20th December 2014

Twenty-seven people have been arrested on suspicion of drink-drving in Oxfordshire this month.

Motorcyclist hit car driver after collision

Oxford Mail: Thames Valley Police logo

9:10am Saturday 20th December 2014

A pensioner was badly injured when he was attacked in his car by a motorcyclist in Cutteslowe, police said.

Dignified remembrance for victims of Gaza conflict

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Saturday 20th December 2014

A VIGIL to remember those killed in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza this year was held in Carfax, Oxford.

'Violent bully' from Witney found guilty of extorting money

Oxford Mail: Oxford Crown Court

9:00am Saturday 20th December 2014

A “VIOLENT bully” has been found guilty of forcing a man to hand over his wages for seven months by a jury in Oxford Crown Court.

Comments (6)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:14am Mon 23 Jun 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

Sounds like a good source of income for the council...

I wonder what the the charge-out consultancy rate is?
Sounds like a good source of income for the council... I wonder what the the charge-out consultancy rate is? Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 1

11:40am Mon 23 Jun 14

DoctorBob says...

Andrew:Oxford wrote:
Sounds like a good source of income for the council...

I wonder what the the charge-out consultancy rate is?
Or the Tories shoring up a failed ideological experiment at our expense.
[quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: Sounds like a good source of income for the council... I wonder what the the charge-out consultancy rate is?[/p][/quote]Or the Tories shoring up a failed ideological experiment at our expense. DoctorBob
  • Score: 1

12:38pm Mon 23 Jun 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

DoctorBob wrote:
Andrew:Oxford wrote:
Sounds like a good source of income for the council...

I wonder what the the charge-out consultancy rate is?
Or the Tories shoring up a failed ideological experiment at our expense.
Could be worse...

Can you imagine if it was the Greens running school policy?
[quote][p][bold]DoctorBob[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: Sounds like a good source of income for the council... I wonder what the the charge-out consultancy rate is?[/p][/quote]Or the Tories shoring up a failed ideological experiment at our expense.[/p][/quote]Could be worse... Can you imagine if it was the Greens running school policy? Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

12:54pm Mon 23 Jun 14

DoctorBob says...

Andrew:Oxford wrote:
Sounds like a good source of income for the council...

I wonder what the the charge-out consultancy rate is?
Or the Tories shoring up a failed ideological experiment at our expense.
[quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: Sounds like a good source of income for the council... I wonder what the the charge-out consultancy rate is?[/p][/quote]Or the Tories shoring up a failed ideological experiment at our expense. DoctorBob
  • Score: 0

12:54pm Mon 23 Jun 14

DoctorBob says...

DoctorBob wrote:
Andrew:Oxford wrote:
Sounds like a good source of income for the council...

I wonder what the the charge-out consultancy rate is?
Or the Tories shoring up a failed ideological experiment at our expense.
Whoops
[quote][p][bold]DoctorBob[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Andrew:Oxford[/bold] wrote: Sounds like a good source of income for the council... I wonder what the the charge-out consultancy rate is?[/p][/quote]Or the Tories shoring up a failed ideological experiment at our expense.[/p][/quote]Whoops DoctorBob
  • Score: 0

7:25pm Mon 23 Jun 14

Christine Hovis says...

So, a LIberal Democrat is concerned that the Conservative-led council is intervening in schools that the coalition government is controling directly from Westminster. It's a funny old world.
So, a LIberal Democrat is concerned that the Conservative-led council is intervening in schools that the coalition government is controling directly from Westminster. It's a funny old world. Christine Hovis
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree