East Sussex County Council's Get a Grip campaign for improving school attendance hit the headlines this week after opinion was divided over its effectiveness and tone, prompting a backlash from some parents.
Get a Grip is the name of a leaflet that East Sussex CC sent to the homes of parents whose child has missed three or more days of school so far this academic year. A copy of the information in the leaflet can be found on the East Sussex CC website.
The council has since expanded on their position on their Facebook page stating:
“We have a duty to make all parents aware of the risks around missing education and make it absolutely clear that regular attendance is a legal requirement; not an option. We have to do all we can to ensure ALL parents are aware of their legal duty to ensure their children receive a good education and take that responsibility seriously.”
Many parents have reacted negatively to the campaign, to the extent that a petition has been set up on Change.org asking East Sussex CC to apologise for the Get a Grip campaign and withdraw it. The Change.org petition, which has over 9,000 signatures so far, says in part:
“The phrase Get a Grip is suggestive that parents are out of control and ineffective parents.... There is no justification for the tone of this leaflet. For those parents (a minority) who are keeping their children at home for reasons not considered serious enough to warrant it, this leaflet will only serve to alienate families. It is unsupportive, and the aggressive attitude will hardly encourage those people to reengage with the school system.”
Research has shown that when school leaders, MATs, local education authorities and others concerned in the governance of schools work together effectively with parents and value their contribution as equal stakeholders in the education of their child, everybody benefits and the educational experience and outcomes of children improves.
What parents told us
We asked parents on Twitter the question, "Do you think campaigns like Get A Grip by East Sussex CC can improve children's school attendance?" The results of a small sample of respondents shows that the vast majority of parents who responded (78%) did not think that the campaign would achieve its desired objective, while 17% did (some users Tweeted the sentiment that "too many" parents condone their child's absence from school, or that some children are kept home from school for trivial reasons).
We also asked if any parent had a positive experience of an LA's campaign to raise levels of school attendance, but had no responses.
We asked the same question on our Parents' Facebook page and had a similar proportion of seven out of ten parents believing that the campaign would not achieve its desired objective, with two out of ten parents believing that it would.
The difference of parental opinion, with a majority reacting negatively to the campaign, along with our research on parents' views on accountability, shows that there is work to do to build positive partnerships between parents and LAs, where parents feel their views are taken into account and they are treated as a stakeholder in the education of their child.
Resources for LAs
There are resources on our website, such as our joint guidance with NAHT and ASCL on how to build positive home-school partnerships and our joint guidance with NASBM Engaging parents and other stakeholders to improve your school which have great ideas on how to engage with and value parents when making decisions affecting them or simply communicating with them. Image of East Sussex County flag from Wiki Commons.
Image of East Sussex County flag from Wiki Commons.