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The State of the City’s... Schools

Tackling persistent school absence, and a drop in “cultural” trips, reports Simon Binns

Written by . Published on August 3rd 2010.

The State of the City’s... Schools

Two years ago, Manchester had the worst secondary school attendance figures in the country, according to the recent State of the City report drawn up by Manchester Partnerships.

Attendance figures for secondary schools stood at 89.4 per cent; the following year, there was a slight improvement to 89.7 per cent.

But Manchester is still well above the national average for persistent absence across junior and secondary schools, clocking up six per cent against the UK figure of 3.3 per cent.

The report says that attendance is a “key priority” for the council’s Childrens’ Services department. “For many schools in Manchester, improving pupil attendance is a significant challenge,” it said.

“Manchester’s figures for absence are higher than the national average and higher than in other local authorities that are statistically similar to Manchester. The issue is one that affects all secondary and primary schools.”

So what’s being done about it? Well, apart from the usual ‘strategic partnerships’, a city wide campaign started in February.

The initiative, which describes itself as “hard-hitting”, included truancy sweeps in hot-spot areas, carried out in partnership with Greater Manchester Police; “blitzes” at individual schools; school staff visiting pupils’ homes with education officers and a citywide reward scheme for 100 per cent attendance and effort for pupils.

The report said results of the scheme were not yet clear, although at the end of half-term 4, the number of persistently absent pupils was down by 301 in primary schools and 503 in secondary schools compared to last year.

Is that the right approach?

The education section of the report throws up also another interesting stat – that there were fewer visits to cultural institutions by education groups in 2008/09 than the year before.

The number of visits by education groups to libraries decreased in 2008/09 – from 1,680 to 1,540 - although there were closures or service disruptions to five libraries for repair and refurbishment.

The number of visits by education groups to leisure facilities decreased from 11,846 to 10,529, and trips to galleries dropped significantly, from 1,070 to 730.

The report said “new safeguarding guidelines” had “created an issue for some schools around learning outside the school environment”, although did not give any further details.

It also said that in 2008/09 and 2009/10 there were changes to both primary and secondary national curricula, which had led to “short-term uncertainty and requiring schools, museums and galleries to adjust their provision.”

The new curricula, it said, will have more for creativity and learning outside the classroom and Manchester City Galleries’” deeper, more varied programme” for secondary schools and colleges has seen a growth in uptake and numbers.

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