Guidance on the use of part-time timetables has been issued to schools on two occasions: 23 March 2018 and 16 November 2018.
The guidance outlined the local authority's (LA's) process for monitoring persistent absences and part-time timetables and the mechanisms for schools to provide this information.
In February 2019, the Local Government and Social Care Ombudsman (LGSCO) issued an investigation report relating to a complaint against Norfolk County Council that highlighted concerns about the use of reduced timetables.
The Attendance Service reviews the data submitted including plans where provided by the school. Attendance Officers are allocated sets of data to review and contact schools where further information is required and/or where there are concerns about the arrangements put in place.
A review of the data provided to the LA from September 2018 to February 2019 provided the following picture:
- 57 schools notified the Attendance Service about 165 part-time timetables
- Follow up contact was made with 43 schools to gather further information or to provide advice about the arrangements in place
- It is evident that schools are using part-time timetables for a number of reasons including medical needs, reintegration following a period of sustained absence and behaviour
- In some cases, the children had returned to full-time education very quickly but in other cases, Attendance and Entitlement Officers found examples of timetables exceeding 6-8 weeks
- The processes for recording reduced timetables and reintegration plans were variable and indicated the need to provide additional guidance
In response to the data provided and findings of the LGSCO, the following actions have been undertaken:
- Further guidance has been devised for schools and other education settings regarding the use of reduced timetables. The guidance sets out Norfolk County Council’s position on the use of reduced timetables and provides a framework for school practice and other professionals working with schools. It includes a format for recording and notifying the LA of a reduced timetable and the plan for reintegration.
- The Attendance Service has revised and simplified the process for schools to notify the LA of a reduced timetable. From May 2019, schools should notify the Attendance Service of any reduced timetable at the point it is agreed. Please scan a signed copy of the signed plan and send to the Attendance Team via secure email to email@example.com or securely via Any Comms Plus with ‘name of school and part time timetable’ in the subject line. If the child is looked after or previously looked after, the information should also be copied to the Virtual School: firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do not send originals. It is important you retain the original signed copy for your records. Schools are no longer required to provide information about reduced timetables via the half termly data collection return made via the Perspective System.
Any professional who is made aware of the use of a reduced timetable should check that the school has notified the Attendance Team. If a professional believes that the Team has not been notified of the reduced timetable and/or they are concerned about the plan in place, they should contact the Attendance Team on 01603 223681 or email email@example.com.