The National Behaviour and Attendance Review in Wales: Findings and Recommendations on School Attendance

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This article focuses upon the evidence, findings and recommendations made to the National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR) on school attendance in Wales. The review took place between 2006 and 2008 and was chaired by the author (NBAR, 2007, 2008). The review lasted for two years and involved more than fifty meetings or specially convened events, including focus groups, professional consultations and conferences. Although being supported by resources from the Welsh Assembly Government, whose help is acknowledged, the Review Group were able to undertake their work in a thorough and comprehensive way and in an independent manner.

Since devolution, the management and administration of school attendance has been devolved to the four United Kingdom (UK) governments. The oversight for school attendance is now the responsibility of the recently reorganised Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) in England, of the Scottish Executive (SED), of the Northern Ireland Assembly (NIA) and the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG). Post-devolution, the four different administrations have been making their own progress with different agendas and priorities in order to improve rates of school attendance (Cole, 2007). These different strategies have been analysed in considerable detail elsewhere (Reid, 2008a).

Since taking responsibility for school attendance the Welsh Assembly Government initially established a task force to create an action plan to improve school attendance in Wales. In part this work was undertaken because rates of non-attendance in Wales have been consistently higher than in other regions of the UK, more especially in large metropolitan areas such as Cardiff, Swansea and Newport, in the South Wales valleys and along the North Wales coastline (Reid, 2004a; NBAR, 2008, see section 2.5, tables 1-6).

Following concern expressed in the Chief Inspector for Wales's annual report (Estyn, 2006a) that pupils' non-attendance and truancy were the major challenge facing the Welsh Assembly Government, the then Minister for Education and Lifelong Learning (Jane Davidson) decided to establish a Review into Behaviour and School Attendance (NBAR) in Wales.

The terms of reference of the Review Group (NBAR, 2008, p. 2) were to:

1 Explore ways in which parents, children and young people and the community as a whole could be more effectively supported and engaged in the promotion of positive behaviour and attendance at school.

2 Identify effective practice in promoting positive behaviour and attendance and ways in which this practice could be disseminated and embedded in schools and local authorities across Wales.

3 Identify effective use of multi-agency partnerships in tackling issues of poor attendance and behaviour, including consideration of regional models.

4 Identify potential new Wales-only legislative measures (competence orders) which could be sought under the Government of Wales Act 2006 that would assist in promoting discipline and attendance, including specific consideration of the provision of education for excluded pupils.

For the purposes of this article it is also important to understand the Welsh context. The Welsh Assembly Government is increasingly setting out its own policies and agenda for education. These policies affect everyone in education in Wales from staff working in local authorities (LAs) and schools to parents, pupils and voluntary organisations. The Welsh Assembly Government's objectives have been articulated in Learning Country 1 and 2 (WAG, 2001, 2006).

For the purposes of this article it is also important to understand the Welsh context. The Welsh Assembly Government is increasingly setting out its own policies and agenda for education. These policies affect everyone in education in Wales from staff working in local authorities (LAs) and schools to parents, pupils and voluntary organisations. The Welsh Assembly Government's objectives have been articulated in Learning Country 1 and 2 (WAG, 2001, 2006). …