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:

Black Friday: Shopping traffic causing chaos around Bicester as police warn to avoid area

Oxford Mail:

1:59pm Friday 28th November 2014

POLICE have urged people to avoid the Bicester area due to heavy traffic into Bicester Village on Black Friday.

John Campbell desperate to seize second chance with Oxford United

Oxford Mail:

9:10am Friday 28th November 2014

JOHN Campbell expects it will be a struggle to sleep tonight as he deals with excitement levels beyond anything he experienced playing in two Wembley finals.

Grant: City bids for share of £144m cycling money

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Friday 28th November 2014

OXFORD’S share of a newly-announced £114m grant could be spent on a fully connected city cycle network or teaching cycling in schools, campaigners have said.

Drugs conspiracy case jury considers verdict

Oxford Mail: Scales of Justice

8:30am Friday 28th November 2014

The jury in the case of a pub boss and building company director accused of being involved in a drugs conspiracy has retired to consider its verdict.

Queen of crime who ‘thrilled and inspired a generation’

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Friday 28th November 2014

PD James was yesterday hailed by fellow Oxford literary legend Colin Dexter as ‘one of the most stylish and distinguished modern crime writers’.

Update: Driver taken to hospital after two lorries crash on A34

Oxford Mail: A34 traffic alert

7:38am Friday 28th November 2014

TRAFFIC is "very slow" on the A34 after one lane was closed following a crash between two lorries.

Churchill train revamp

Oxford Mail: Archive pic from Winston Churchill (10800337)

8:00am Friday 28th November 2014

Work is almost finished to restore a train carriage that brought Sir Winston Churchill to his final resting place in Oxfordshire.

Man arrested after attack on rail worker on Chiltern Railways train near Banbury

Oxford Mail: British Transport police badge

8:00am Friday 28th November 2014

A train manager was attacked on a train near Banbury.

Jayden hostel set to close

Oxford Mail: Jayden Parkinson

8:00am Friday 28th November 2014

THE hostel where 17-year-old Jayden Parkinson lived before she was murdered is to close, it was announced yesterday.

Brize Norton welcomes new aircraft and 300 jobs

Oxford Mail:

8:00am Friday 28th November 2014

THE RAF’s new £2.8bn fleet of aircraft, the first of which was unveiled at RAF Brize Norton yesterday, will create 300 jobs there.

Labour holds Blackbird Leys and Northfield Brook wards and Leys division in by-elections

Oxford Mail: Oxfordshire County Council member for Northfield Brook Steve Curran

11:58pm Thursday 27th November 2014

LABOUR has tonight comfortably held three council seats in by-elections in Oxford.

Crash witnesses wanted after woman, 81, killed

Oxford Mail:

7:00am Friday 28th November 2014

AN ELDERLY woman has died crossing Lodge Hill, Abingdon.

Bright lights of Didcot bring in festive crowds

Oxford Mail:

7:00am Friday 28th November 2014

FACES lit up both with lights and joy as hundreds turned out for Didcot’s annual Christmas street fair yesterday.

Huge queues at Attenborough’s book signing

Oxford Mail:

6:30am Friday 28th November 2014

SIR David Attenborough fans queued for almost eight hours to meet the broadcaster and nature expert at a book signing in Oxford yesterday.

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