Wellingborough school uses treats to boost pupil attendance

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A primary school in Wellingborough says it has boosted attendance by offering pupils treats rather than fining parents.

Bosses at Olympic Academy say the move has led to the average attendance rising above the national average to about 96 per cent during the last academic year, with six out of 10 children now achieving between 97 per cent and full attendance.

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They say the approach is a deliberate contrast to the Government’s controversial policy of asking schools to levy fines on parents for their child’s poor attendance.

The academy’s scheme offers small incentives throughout the academic year enabling children to have multiple opportunities to gain different rewards.

Pupils enjoy sweet treats such as hot chocolate in the winter and ice lollies in the summer as well as rewards which link into the academy’s policy of encouraging children to be physically active - including a treasure hunt, fun time on a bouncy castle and, for those with 100 per cent attendance all year round, a country park visit in the summer term.

Olympic also incentivises children to arrive punctually each school day.

‘Early bird’ points are exchanged for prizes including reading books and colouring pens.

Supporting the ‘early bird’ initiative is a hugely popular breakfast club: re-established in September 2016 and sponsored by The Greggs Foundation and Wellingborough based ESS Safeforce, it’s served more than 7,000 portions of breakfast since its launch.

Principal Anne Binns said: “Attendance at school is really important and we’ve worked hard to get closer to 100 per cent attendance by all pupils.

“We want to make sure our children, from the very youngest through to Year 6, take part in as many lessons and activities as possible so they have a strong foundation for future success.

“There’s a lot of evidence that missing lessons at primary school has a direct bearing on GCSE results and later life chances, including job prospects.

“I’m grateful to Jo Sawford, Inclusion Lead, who is our senior teacher responsible for boosting attendance: her work is having a truly positive impact.

“The scheme has proved popular with both children and parents; we’ve received excellent feedback and are extending the scheme this academic year to further improve attendance.”

Lizzie Rowe, Chief Operating Officer of The Education Fellowship, which runs the academy, said “It is paramount that we run varying activities and incentive schemes in all our primary and secondary academies to improve punctuality and attendance.

“As well as ensuring attendance is high, we focus on non-exclusions and many of our academies are constantly reporting zero exclusion rates – a child needs to attend school in order to achieve their highest potential in life.

“I see no point whatsoever in the Government’s policy on levying fines – we want to work with our parents, not battle with them.”