Archbishop Sancroft High School in Harleston celebrates record final year attendance

A Norfolk high school is proving that reward works better than punishment when it comes to encouraging pupils to turn up for lessons.

Archbishop Sancroft High School, in Harleston, has achieved record attendance among its Year 11 pupils – a year group which more usually has the lowest attendance – after a major push this year which is more carrot than stick.

This year's overall school attendance to date is 94.94pc, with the current Year 11 being the best in the school at 95.87pc.

Assistant headteacher Robert Connelly said: 'Attendance is usually very good in Year 7, dropping off each year as students get older.

'This year, we decided to focus on attendance generally, and on Year 11 in particular, emphasising the link between attendance and achievement. We've made real progress across the school, and the best ever Year 11 figures.'

He added that among the initiatives which had contributed to the rise were the school's 'enrichment' programme, the celebration of good attendance at special assemblies and the rewards system.

'Enrichment' includes an initiative started this year in which pupils who are not fulfilling their potential are invited to attend extra, more informal, lessons after school in small groups of four to six pupils, often accompanied by parents. This has proved so successful that other pupils have joined in.

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'We believe it's done a lot to improve pupil engagement and to get across the importance of being in class,' added Mr Connelly.

'Celebration assemblies' each term also highlight attendance, and a competition is run between tutor groups with a reward for the group with the highest attendance.

In addition, the school has introduced early interventions to help children whose attendance is below the whole school target of 95pc through regular updates, correspondence and meetings with pupils and their parents/carers.

Mr Connelly said pastoral care was very important to the school's ethos and that, if a pupil was regularly missing lessons, the child and parents were invited in to discuss the problem and to decide an action plan.

'It's far more effective to work with parents and students in this way, and to do so early on, than to adopt punitive measures,' he said, adding that the school was also proud of the low number of pupils whose attendance is below 85pc (classified as persistent absence). This figure, which stands at 4pc, is below the target set by governors and the local authority of 8pc.

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