Council backs new scheme to help improve school attendance

​Date: 03/02/2015

A new nationally recognised programme to help children improve their attendance at school is being rolled out across the district following a successful pilot in Pontefract.

The CHOICE scheme – "Children Have Options Imagination Challenge and Experience", is aimed at primary aged children between Years 4 to 6. It targets children who may have struggled with attendance in schools and supports youngsters and their families to help improve their attendance rates.
The programme is delivered once a week over a thirty week period. Young students begin the course by becoming 'college cadets' and have regular contact with the college for career support and help until they move in secondary education.

Wakefield College provides a selection of taster sessions for young people in construction, mechanics, bricklaying and hair and beauty to help them think about career planning.

Youngsters also undertake a six week firefighting course held by Castleford Fire Station to help them develop their team building skills. Once this is completed, West Yorkshire Police Service hold a series of visits and sessions to help children understand how to continue to be good citizens. Students can also collect points for completing sections of the programme and receive prizes such as a graduation hat and gown.

Cllr Olivia Rowley, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People said: "This programme gives young people a practical insight into the various career opportunities available to them. It also helps students to improve their overall attendance rates with valuable information sessions and talks. This programme will be delivered with partners within the Early Help Hubs which provide services to those who need it the most.

"We are supporting schools to encourage parents to ensure their children attend school regularly. Good school attendance is vital towards helping children get the best possible start in life, build a better future and open more opportunities in their adult life."

The programme is delivered in partnership with Pontefract Education and Academies Trust, Wakefield and District Housing, Wakefield College, West Yorkshire Police and West Yorkshire Fire services, Health professionals, British Transport Police and Wakefield Youth Offending Team.

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson said: "This is a superb programme which offers young people in our communities a positive outlet and presents genuine learning opportunities."

The scheme was successfully piloted in Pontefract at Carleton High School in 2011 and has helped improve attendance, attainment and student behaviour. 80% of students at the school who enrolled on the scheme made either a good or exceptional progress. In one case attendance significantly rose from 89.4% to 94.6%.

To date the initiative has been rolled out to nine other schools including seven in Pontefract and two in Knottingley. These include the Rookeries Primary school, Carleton Park Primary school, De-Lacy Primary school, Cobblers Lane Primary  school, Orchard Head Primary school, St Giles Primary and Halfpenny Lane Primary in Pontefract. Schools in Knottingley included, Simpsons Lane Primary school and England's Lane school.

It has also been nationally recognised for excellence by Centre for Excellence and Outcomes (C4EOP) and has appeared in the 2014 Public Health England Report which looked at ways to reduce the number of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET).

The scheme is part of the Early Help Offer which is provided by partners offering services to those who need it the most.