LIES, DAMN LIES, AND HOW ONE PUPIL PUT A VILLAGE SCHOOL INTO A LEAGUE OF SHAME
A Tiny village school has been placed in a league of shame for truancy because just one pupil kept missing lessons.
The 32-pupil Fiskerton Primary School in Fiskerton, near Lincoln, is now officially listed as 57th worst for truancy in the country out of 14,877 mainstream primary schools.
Headteacher Maralyn Papworth said: “We had a child here who moved from the Bradford area. She hadn’t attended school there but had to go on a register.
“I think she only attended school five afternoons. We alerted the proper authorities and the child has now moved back to Bradford. It didn’t do our attendance figures any good but we couldn’t do anything about it. As far as truancy is concerned, at a primary school it doesn’t really happen.”
She said that for the last three years the school’s attendance had been in line with the national average. Ofsted inspectors last year found the school’s attendance was “satisfactory”.
“There is no doubt that if it were not for that one child we would be in line with the national median again,” said Mrs Papworth. “We are a fast improving school and we don’t need this.
“Because there is no explanation it looks very bad. However, I know from the local education authority point of view and Department for Education and Skills point of view the evidence we would give would actually explain why that was.”
National Union of Teachers Lincolnshire secretary Paul Forman, who was chairman of governors at Fiskerton until March, said the table was very misleading.
“The Government has managed to get the data, add two and two together and get an amazingly wrong answer,” he said.
“There is a very simple explanation for what has happened in Fiskerton. It’s a very small school and one pupil didn’t go to school. Attendance figures for everybody else are practically 100 per cent. The DfES has got these figures, put them in order and it thinks it gives it more information but it hasn’t.
“I think it is damaging and very dispiriting for the people involved.”
The truancy tables published by the DfES today show that 3.6 per cent of time missed by pupils at the Fiskerton school last year was unauthorised.
With only 32 pupils at the school one pupil, if they never turned up, would be responsible for 3.2 per cent of that figure.
Lincolnshire director of education Dr Cheryle Berry said she was angry that Fiskerton had been placed so highly in the truancy league table.
“It shouldn’t be in there at all,” She said. “It is utterly ridiculous and bizarre. Why have we set these out like a football league table?
“What they don’t do is give you the context. One child wasn’t at school when they should have been.”
The Usher Junior School in Lincoln has also been listed in the worst 200. It is ranked 184th.
Dr Berry said Usher had problems because of the transient nature of its catchment area but things were changing. The table said 2.6 per cent of absences were unauthorised.
“I am sure the Usher will not be in the table next year,” said Dr Berry. “My feeling is that with families coming in and out they have had difficulties, which they have overcome.
“The school has an excellent new head and what she has done is paying dividends and the school is on the up.”
Headteacher at the school Julie Harrison said: “The great majority of our children are keen to attend.
“Their parents are aware of the importance the school places on regular attendance and do their best.”
LINCOLNSHIRE ECHO – COMMENT
10:30 – 02 December 2004
Many of Lincolnshire’s best primary schools are today celebrating another excellent performance in the Government’s performance league tables.
Other schools with more “challenging” pupil intakes are, alternatively, planning how they can improve their future positions in this most public of publications. Performance tables are, by and large, welcomed by parents who want to be reassured that their youngsters are getting the education they deserve.
The opinions of teachers tend to be less favourable. The experiences of Fiskerton Primary School suggest the teachers may have point.
Fiskerton is a good village school, much loved by its pupils and their mums and dads. Its performance, however, has today been highlighted in a national table of schools with truancy problems.
The table has come as a shock to those at the school. The only absence of any note this year has been one pupil who was transferred from a school in Yorkshire, turned up for three half-days, then disappeared.
Unfortunately for Fiskerton, the absence of this single youngster from its 32-pupil register means the school is tar-brushed as having 3.6 per cent of its children playing truant. A statistical quirk means it is branded as a school with a problem.
This cannot be right. School league tables were designed to help parents make informed decisions. In the case of small schools like Fiskerton, they can actually distort the facts.
Does such an obviously flawed system serve anyone any purpose?