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Fast Track to attendance

The Fast Track framework is a time-focused model of case management and, where appropriate, prosecution. The Fast Track model promotes early intervention by both schools, the LA and parents in cases of persistent absence. It aims to ensure appropriate and time limited intervention is in place to tackle the underlying causes of poor or non-attendance as soon as it becomes apparent. It is a mechanism for ensuring parents focus their attention on their responsibility for ensuring their children attend school both regularly and punctually by engaging with them and specifying, by way of an attendance contract, what improvements need to be made. This should generally be concluded within a 12-week period. In order to start Fast Track the criteria must be met-

Pupil must have at least 15% unauthorised absence within a 6 week period, this equates to 9 sessions of absence

Before you start Fast Track you should consider what early intervention you have done to attempt to engage the parent and address the attendance issue:
• Have you held an attendance support panel? Set targets, identified the barrier and agreed a plan? You can use the Early intervention plan paperwork to provide a framework. 
• Have there been previous attendance issues you are aware of, what intervention worked previously?
• Are there any school age siblings either in your school or at other schools, it might be best to consider a joint approach
• Have you consulted with you allocated AEO?

Schools entering Fast Track with pupils are required to send official correspondence to all parent(s) as defined in the Education Act 1996. The school should ensure that it has established, in advance of the first invitations to meetings being sent, all adults who fulfil the definition of a parent for the child and correspond with them accordingly. This should include all adults in the household with the child who hold a parental role and any non-resident parents, even if they live out of county. The school should ensure that the address and contact details of the parent(s) are accurate and current.

Schools are required to inform all parent(s) individually even if they reside at the same address. This is essential to secure sufficient evidence for a Section 1A prosecution should the matter progress to prosecution.  
Initial invite letters should be sent out allowing at least 5 working days in advance of the meeting so that a parent(s) have sufficient notice to make arrangements to attend. In all correspondence parent(s) should be made aware of who will be attending the arranged meeting.

The initial Fast Track to Attendance Panel should be held in school involving parents, pupil, school staff, Governors and other agencies as required. If a parent is unable to attend, school needs to consider if the reason is reasonable. If so then a new meeting date should be arranged. If not, then the meeting should continue in the absence of the parent(s). If parent has not engaged with the process, specific consideration should be given to how professionals can engage the parent in future meetings. The initial Fast Track meeting should aim to ensure that parents are fully informed of their legal responsibilities, the statutory defences to non-attendance and the potential implications of further unauthorised absences. 
The meeting should seek to establish details of any other adults and their role in the child’s life where gaps in information exist. If a parent declines to provide details of other parents as defined by the Education Act 1996, this should be recorded in the minutes.  The meeting should explore the barriers to school attendance and any other concerns for the pupil as well as focusing on what is working well in respect of the child’s education. In all cases, the child’s wishes and feelings must be sought in order to seek to understand their reasons for poor school attendance. Set an attendance target and develop a targeted action plan using the Fast Track template. All agreed actions should be individual to the child and their specific needs; plans should not be pre-populated with a set of generic actions. A review meeting date should be agreed within a six week period.  If parent(s) failed to attend a meeting, the school must send a copy of the minutes to parent(s) with a covering letter. Should any parent, including absent parents, not be present at any meeting, they must be written to separately with copies of the minutes and given the opportunity to become actively involved. 

All minutes and plans should provide an accurate reflection of the key issues discussed. All minutes should clearly identify what is working well, the issues affecting school attendance and the child’s wishes and feelings. All agreed actions should be individual to the child and their specific needs; plans should not be pre-populated with a set of generic actions. The minutes should be signed by all attendees including the child where appropriate.  Parents should be provided with a signed copy of all documents at the time of the meeting, or in exceptional circumstances, via post as soon as possible. If parent(s) failed to attend a meeting, the school must send a copy of the minutes to parent(s) with a covering letter. Should any parent, including absent parents, not be present at any meeting, they must be written to separately with copies of the minutes and given the opportunity to become actively involved. 

The school should send out an invitation to the Fast Track review meeting at least 5 working days in advance of the meeting so that parent(s) are reminded and have sufficient notice to attend. 

At the review meeting there are four possible outcomes:
• Where pupil attendance has improved and the agreed target has been achieved, the Fast Track process should be formally closed.
• Where there is evidence of statutory defence, the Fast Track process should be formally closed but an appropriate action plan should be agreed to address the child’s needs. Any outstanding issues and authorised absences should be managed by the school via the agreed step-down plan.  
• Where there has been further unauthorised attendance, the decision should be made to refer the case to the LA for consideration of legal action in line with Education Act 1996. 
• Where there has been some improvement, but insufficient to close the case, an internal review should be held on a specified date and within 6 school weeks (to ensure there is no hindrance to the 26 week prosecution period). No additional meeting is required but all parties must be clear about the specified date for the review at the review meeting. The parent(s) must be clear that the school will make the decision whether to prosecute in that internal review period.

It’s important to acknowledge good changes and efforts made by both parents and pupils and A clear and accurate record should be made of the meeting. Schools must write to parent(s) to confirm the outcome of the Fast Track process and the agreed next steps. Where an internal review is agreed, the school should send a letter to the parent(s) to confirm the decision reached at the end of the agreed period.

Where the agreed outcome of the Panel is a recommendation to the LA to instigate legal proceedings, the school should complete the Attendance Case Management Form and Application to Prosecute within 20 working days and submit this with the completed evidence pack to the Attendance Team for consideration. 

Below are all the documents you need for the Fast Track process. If you require any advice throughout the process please call the duty line on 01603 223681.