Educational Welfare Officers Speech

Chair, fellow councillors and colleagues I am moving the motion to support an improvement in the level of educational attainment through the improved attendance of pupils in Suffolk schools.


Because in Ofsted`s letter to Suffolk County Council on the 6th November, 2013 Sean Harford for Ofsted said “It raises the question .. why the Local Authority has not done more to effect improvement.”

I am suggesting an immediate improvement – raise attainment by raising attendance

Non-Attendance requires swift action:-

To put it bluntly if a pupil is not in school he or she cannot learn.

Back in 2001/2 Suffolk had the 10th best primary school attendance record in the country, by 2011/12 Suffolk had slipped to 131st out of 152, and 2012/13 we had slipped even further, to 132nd, just 20 places from the bottom the 20th worst in the country.

Alongside this is an incredible plunge down the league tables across Suffolk, at every level. As Ofsted highlighted only last week attainment in the county is still behind the national average at age 5, 11, 16 and 19

How does Suffolk compare with other Local Authorities?
Look at the red dot in front of you that`s Suffolk. – Low attendance equals low attainment.
Look at the top right hand corner, high attendance, equalshigh attainment, it’s common sense.
The orange dots are Wigan, Slough, and Trafford in Manchester.

The black dots are Redbridge, Bexley and Kingston all London boroughs with the green dot, our friends in Hackney.
On the 16th October, 2013 government figures were released that showed that in Suffolk`s schools there was a higher rate of persistent pupil absence than in any London borough.

A total of 4,597 pupils were classed as “persistent absentees” at the county`s state-funded primary and secondary schools.

It means 5.5% of the county`s pupils lost 15% or more of their teaching time, equating to 38 or more missed lessons – authorised and unauthorised.

That is a worse ranking than all 33 London boroughs, plus a host of major cities with huge deprivation issues including Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester. Most embarrassingly it is the second worse score in the east of England, just 0.2% behind Southend-on-Sea.

Attendance has a huge impact on attainment.

Why is it that other authorities have managed to raise the bar and our bar stays fixed so very low.
In 2007 we had a well-staffed team of Education Welfare Officers. They had responsibilities to go out and check registers to review attendance levels. They could work with schools to solve issues or signpost families to specialist help. Suffolk’s EWO service was in fact commended for some of the best work in the county.
So what changed?
The development of integrated teams of EWO, Health Workers, social workers and other professionals brought about increased communication, but also had the effect of limiting the priority given to attendance issues.

Also as a result of recent government reforms EWO`s no longer have the right of access to all schools in Suffolk to check registers.

We want to see more people doing this job with greater authority to intervene and make a difference in the lives of people who are struggling.

Penalty notices
There are a number of measures EWOs have at their disposal. When parents have their legal responsibilities highlighted to them they usually send their child to school however in some cases a firmer hand is required.
In 2010/11 there were 0.63 penalty notices per 100 LA issued to parents in Suffolk. In the east of England as a whole there were 6.31, remember Suffolk, 0.63, in all of the local authorities in England 8.32, Suffolk 0.63, if you take London alone 11.57.

EWOs have the power to issue these notices. This council has not taken attendance seriously enough.
If you want to raise the bar you need to have all children in the class room – engaged in their learning. It’s common sense.

Summing up
If you vote against this motion you are saying you want Suffolk to stay in the educational backwater it is in. I for one will not give up on our children – they are our future. Children only get one chance to learn. Let`s aim high in Suffolk.

Let`s aim high in Suffolk!

I commend this motion to the chamber

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