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:

Jayden trial: Jake Blakeley tells jury his killer brother was evil

Oxford Mail: Jake Blakeley, 18, from Didcot

8:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

A TEENAGER accused of helping his brother bury the body of Jayden Parkinson wept in the dock as he was told to look at photos of the two graves.

'I'm glad my evil ex has been jailed for injuring me'

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

A WOMAN left with life-changing injuries after her violent boyfriend pulled her car’s handbrake on the A40 said she is glad the “evil” man has been jailed.

Johnny Mullins backing Oxford United's quality

Oxford Mail: Johnny Mullins

9:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

Johnny Mullins says Oxford United’s squad have the quality to get themselves out of trouble even without help from new signings.

Haggis and a wee dram on menu for Burns Night

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Saturday 24th January 2015

FAMILIES and friends across Oxford are coming together to celebrate Sunday’s Burns Night in style.

Delight at decision to replace whole water pipe in Normandy Crescent

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Saturday 24th January 2015

RESIDENTS have welcomed Thames Water’s decision to replace the water pipe running through a flood-blighted street as “a step in the right direction.”

A34 northbound re-opened after lorry crash

Oxford Mail:

8:28am Saturday 24th January 2015

THE A34 northbound between Marcham and Milton re-opened this evening after the road was closed when a lorry crashed into a ditch last night.

Plea for noisy salute today to Oxford United fan Keith Pasfield

Oxford Mail:

8:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

THE KASSAM Stadium will echo to a minute’s applause this afternoon to mark the death of a lifelong U’s fan.

It was the sunniest December for 135 years

Oxford Mail:

7:20am Saturday 24th January 2015

DECEMBER is a month more known for ear muffs than sunglasses but last month was the sunniest in Oxford since records began in 1881.

Disabled swimmers are told Leys Pool now ready and waiting for them

Oxford Mail:

7:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

DISABLED swimmers have been reassured by city council managers the right equipment is available at a new £9.2m swimming pool following criticism.

Hospital and health service staff planning 12-hour walk-out

Oxford Mail: John Radcliffe Hospital stock

6:40am Saturday 24th January 2015

MORE than 400 ambulance and 2,000 hospital staff in Oxfordshire could strike as part of a national day of action later this month.

Now students say: We don't want controversial Castle Mill buildings shortened

Oxford Mail: The Castle Mill flats

6:30am Saturday 24th January 2015

STUDENTS have called a bid to reduce the height of the controversial Castle Mill student flats a “scandalous waste” of money.

Two conmen sent to prison

Oxford Mail: Scales of Justice

6:10am Saturday 24th January 2015

TWO conmen who targeted elderly people in Oxford, taking up to £15,000, have been jailed.

Oxford City Council promises to keep its park and ride sites open

Oxford Mail:

6:00am Saturday 24th January 2015

CITY leaders have said plans to scrap park-and-ride facilities in Oxford were put forward without consulting them first.

Entire pipe in Normandy Crescent to be replaced after devastating leak

Oxford Mail:

4:27pm Friday 23rd January 2015

AN entire stretch of water pipe running through Normandy Crescent is to be replaced by Thames Water.

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