I started working with Laurence* when there were serious concerns highlighted about his school attendance. He was persistently absent from school and missing more than one day a week on average. If this continued, Laurence would miss years of education of his school lifetime, and his education and future life chances would be severely affected!
The school previously tried to engage with Laurence’s mother, Stacey, but their attempts were met with hostility. I asked Stacey to come into the school to meet with me, explaining to her that I wasn’t a member of school staff but from a charity, here to help. I learned that Laurence was living at home with his Mum, his five-year old brother, Jake, and baby sister, Molly, and that the family were living on a very low income in a two-bedroomed council flat.
Stacey had a very poor experience with education when she was a child, which explained her hostility towards school. Over the course of a few weeks, as I started to build a relationship with her, she accepted that Laurence’s education was of paramount importance and told me she wanted to help Laurence to achieve his full potential. I also helped Stacey with Jake’s school application, as she didn’t know where to start.
I kept in daily contact with Stacey, highlighting the importance of school attendance for Laurence. His class teacher had informed me that Laurence was struggling to meet expected levels for his age and couldn’t keep up with his peers in class.
Over the next few weeks, his Mum opened up to me about the difficulties of being a single parent with three young children. Together, we came up with a plan to help Stacey feel more confident about bringing Laurence into school every day.
Living in poverty, the family had very little money even for necessities. I applied to the SHS Welfare Fund and an application was approved for school uniforms. The school uniforms the boys were wearing at the time were really unsuitable, and made them reluctant to go to school through fear of bullying.
This was hugely appreciated by Stacey and helped me establish further trust. From this position, I was able to have more challenging conversations with her about Laurence’s attendance. Within a few weeks of working with the family, Laurence’s attendance had improved slightly, but it was still very low. I decided it was necessary to involve the local authority, so I arranged for Stacey to come into school for a meeting with an Education Welfare Officer, and Stacey agreed to enlist the support of her extended family if she was unable to bring Laurence into school, signing an attendance contract. To help Stacey understand the extent of Laurence’s absenteeism, I told Mum that Laurence had missed a total of six weeks of school this year – equivalent to a whole half term.
Laurence’s attendance significantly improved as a result of my intervention. In November 2017, it was at 100% and Laurence has benefited from the extra literacy interventions provided by the school. He has had a few bouts of illness and been sent home on two occasions for not being well enough to stay at school. This represents a real shift in Mum’s attitude to school, as previously she would have kept Laurence home at the slightest hint of illness. Laurence was presented with an award and certificate for improved attendance in assembly in December 2017. He had never received anything like this before and stood up proudly to collect his award.
Laurence’s school attendance is currently above 91% and he continues to make good progress in all areas. Laurence’s teacher reports that he is a very happy child, that he is well behaved and has a strong friendship group and is now making good progress.
*Names have been changed