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:

Funnyman Fry serves up a bit of self-awareness

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Friday 31st October 2014

NATIONAL treasure Stephen Fry met fans in the Bodleian Library for a “hackathon”.

‘Lonely hearts club scam cost me £631’

Oxford Mail:

8:40am Friday 31st October 2014

A MAN left with a £631 phone bill after a relationship with a woman he met on a dating website is warning others to be wary.

Urban dancers prove they can move to the groove

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Friday 31st October 2014

DANCE group Body Politic took Oxford’s Pegasus Theatre by storm as it rolled into town as part of its UK tour.

Mum of drugs death teenager in plea to MPs for law review

Oxford Mail:

8:30am Friday 31st October 2014

A MOTHER who lost her 15-year-old daughter after she took Ecstasy urged MPs to review drug laws yesterday.

£10m community cash for West Way upgrade

Oxford Mail:

8:00am Friday 31st October 2014

DEVELOPERS behind the planned Botley regeneration have revealed they will fund £10m towards community benefits if the controversial scheme goes ahead.

Height row flats' tree screening plan blasted

Oxford Mail:

7:00am Friday 31st October 2014

UNIVERSITY bosses have put forward plans to screen a student flats development by Port Meadow with trees but ruled out reducing its height.

TB victim sent to prison after coughing over council staff

Oxford Mail:

6:30am Friday 31st October 2014

A HOMELESS man has been jailed for the “disgusting” crime of trying to spread tuberculosis (TB) by coughing over Oxford City Council workers.

One in three children in parts of Oxford is living in poverty, says charity

Oxford Mail:

9:00am Thursday 30th October 2014

ONE in three children is living in poverty in areas of the city, a charity has found.

UPDATE: Road reopens after car overturns in Heyford Road, Middleton Stoney

Oxford Mail: Ambulance stock image

10:12am Thursday 30th October 2014

A woman has been taken to hospital following a crash in Middleton Stoney.

LONDON WELSH: Piri Weepu plays down injury concerns

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Thursday 30th October 2014

LONDON Welsh scrum half Piri Weepu yesterday played down concerns about the ankle injury that has left his right foot in a protective boot.

More than 40 Oxford buildings to get free wi-fi

Oxford Mail: Oxford Ice Rink

9:30am Thursday 30th October 2014

ART galleries, civic buildings and even Oxford Ice Rink will soon have free wi-fi thanks to government investment.

London Welsh scrum on down for a bit of action at Oxford's Radcliffe Camera

Oxford Mail:

9:30am Thursday 30th October 2014

LONDON Welsh rugby players are well known for their big hits on opponents in the Aviva Premiership, but yesterday they were the big hits as they took the Big City Scrum to the streets of Oxford.

Bishop of Oxford's farewell eucharist

Oxford Mail:

9:10am Thursday 30th October 2014

A farewell eucharist will be held today at Christ Church cathedral for the retiring Bishop of Oxford.

Oxford residents urged to join fracking protest

Oxford Mail: Fracking Comes to Stockbridge?

9:10am Thursday 30th October 2014

OXFORD residents are being urged to join protests against hydraulic fracturing of shale gas - known as “fracking” - outside County Hall on Tuesday.

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