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Suffolk schools issue attendance guidance to parents including in Bury St Edmunds as focus on 'getting children back into classrooms'





Schools are reminding parents of pupil attendance policies following what one head described as a ‘grace period’ during the coronavirus pandemic.

A number of Suffolk schools have been sending out emails this academic year highlighting attendance rules, while new government guidance to improve levels applies from September 2022.

Sebert Wood Community Primary School, in Bury St Edmunds, recently sent a two-page attendance guide to parents and carers.

Sebert Wood Community Primary School in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Westley
Sebert Wood Community Primary School in Bury St Edmunds. Picture: Mark Westley

While leave during school time might be granted in ‘exceptional circumstances’, all family holidays should be taken in school closure periods, the guide said.

James Tottie, acting headteacher at Sebert Wood, said there had certainly been ‘a little bit of a grace period’ during the Covid crisis. He said: “Take, for example, some of the key workers in the NHS – they had worked absolutely tirelessly during the pandemic – and obviously with travel restrictions, we had families who hadn’t seen relatives overseas for many years.

“There was certainly a relaxation, if you like ... and now there is that focus on getting children back into classrooms where they do learn best.”

He added: “Certainly levels [of attendance] are pretty much in line with where we were pre-pandemic this time of year, and hopefully it will stay that way.”

He said the timing of Sebert Wood’s attendance guide wasn’t government led, but the school was in the process of updating a lot of its policies in the autumn term anyway.

Tim Coulson, chief executive officer of Unity Schools Partnership. Picture: Gooderham PR
Tim Coulson, chief executive officer of Unity Schools Partnership. Picture: Gooderham PR

Tim Coulson, chief executive of Unity Schools Partnership, which includes Abbots Green Academy in the town, said: “School attendance has nationally been poorer since the pandemic. Schools across our trust are all working hard with parents to get attendance back to the level seen previously and we are pleased that these efforts are leading to higher attendance than is the case nationally.”

Abbots Green Academy recently reminded parents ‘it is a legal requirement for your child to be in school each day’, after continuing to have several term-time holiday requests on a daily basis.

If a child has too many unauthorised sessions within an academic year, a fine may be issued by the county council.