Skip to main content
English | Cymraeg

Attendance Strategies at St Christopher’s Special School

The school firmly believes that strong links with parents are important to pupil progress. We also understand the need to have a nuanced approach and, like our pupils, the needs and support that parents require can vary. To this end we are constantly striving to meet these needs in the most effective and beneficial way. Our relationships with parents and carers is the key to securing attendance.

We understand that attendance is impacted for a number of reasons when pupils attend a special school setting. This could be around their health, sleep, access to transport or support for the home around behaviour and meeting needs. To improve attendance we firstly need to understand the root cause of the non-attendance. This means that investing in our well-being team has been key to improving attendance as they start building relationships from the very first day when transition starts. Access to staff who are able to provide bespoke and immediate support is welcomed by families.

The team have been able to offer bespoke packages to parents who have required specific needs. For example, supporting a parent and pupil who had been placed in a refuge. The intervention allowed the pupil placement to continue. The team were able to actively attend meetings with the parent and advise in practical situations for example liaising with transport, benefits housing departments and other external support agencies. Over time the behaviour of the pupil has calmed significantly, and attendance has increased and stabilised to over 95%.

A family moved into the area. The team supported the family to find suitable accommodation and signposted them to various services to ensure the family were supported. A MAP referral was also completed. As a result, pupil placement is continuing and thriving. The family had difficulties obtaining a property and emergency accommodation was obtained. At this time welfare calls were made each day to the family to offer support and ensure they were safe.  The family have now settled and the pupil attends school.

The team supported a parent who has, over time, developed a significant mistrust of external agencies including education, health and social services. The pupil has complex learning and medical conditions which means that engagement with these services is vital. The team have worked hard to build trust and the levels of parental engagement are increasing and having a positive impact on pupil attendance and attainment. This has involved communicating in a variety of means and methods and supporting visits and meetings. We now enjoy a consistent level of communication with the family supporting them to access services and ensuring the pupil attends school and any absence is clear and well communicated.

The team support families in relation to food bank services. They staff audit to consider who may need support. They then make contact and support as appropriate. This has supported several pupils by ensuring the family have sufficient food. This supports learning, attendance and behaviour. It also builds trust with families.

Communication Methods

The school has a Facebook page. This adopts a phase-based approach. Parents are invited to join their child’s specific phase and checks are in place to verify parental identity. This acts as a communication hub where parents can receive and offer communication.

All teachers use See Saw and the head of phase can access and communicate with individual parents and classes as and if required.

We continue to use the telephone to inform as required for example accidents/injuries that may occur during the school day. This ensures that parents have all the relevant information that reduces anxiety and allows them to keep pupils safe if required.

WhatsApp/Text has been very beneficial in engaging families who are reluctant to talk. This also allows invaluable information to be shared that keeps pupils safe and allows us to celebrate their achievements.

If deemed necessary and essential to pupil safety the team will visit the home or research via social media a means to make contact if required.


All families have an individual visit/tour of the school prior to commencing. These take place after school to ensure all relevant family members can visit and are flexible. They have even been arranged   during half term if necessary. The feedback from these has been positive. Families enjoy the opportunity to ask questions that are relevant to their child. Further visits are offered if requested. This allows the team to get to know parents and pupils in advance and build trusting links. A school prospectus and phase leaflet are offered to each family during the visit.

The team then evaluate the transition paperwork. They dedicate time to individual parent appointments to ensure that higher and more sensitive levels of information are captured which support effective transition. This process also continues to build those trusting links with families and establish that clear point of contact.

Induction paperwork is uploaded to TEAMS where teachers can (based on their classroom cohort) select and read in preparation for transition, preparation of work and the classroom ready for September. If needed I can have separate conversations with teachers or heads of phases to discuss sensitive or complex information.

During the autumn term the team continue to liaise with new families and they are supported to build links directly with the phase heads and teachers who are directly working with their children whilst the team remain a point of contact for those who require extended support. The team also work closely with the teachers who receive new pupils to ensure that information is effectively passed on and communication links are established with staff and parents. This has a positive impact on parent and pupil engagement and attendance.

An example of this was a family who required six visits due to anxiety experienced by both the pupil and the parent. This allowed them to gradually familiarise themselves with the building and gradually access increasing areas. The pupil is now a good attender and has settled well into school life. The parent was far more settled and is fully engaged with school life and appreciated the additional support during this difficult time of transition.

Parent/Carer Support

Coffee mornings for parents to discuss what training opportunities/support they would benefit from, encourages parental engagement/relationships and consistency of care both at home and in school. This has created the beginnings of a schedule of training where we can evaluate what is working/beneficial, remove/add topics based on need. We have also arranged a series of presentations for parents including personal care, sleep, diet and legal support. We also host WFIS (Wrexham Family Information Service) on a half-termly basis. They offer independent support and advice to parents and can signpost them to a range of local services provided by the local authority and support groups/charities.

Margaret Davies, Headteacher, St Christopher’s Special School
All case studies