Ensuring the children of Rhondda Cynon Taf are top school attenders is a full-time role for Pat Dobbs.
The 50-year-old mother-of-two is one of the Council’s Attendance and Wellbeing Officers whose role it is to help raise educational standards throughout the County Borough by tackling truancy, poor attendance and punctuality for the benefit of every school pupil.
Based within the Hawthorn and Pontypridd cluster, Pat is dedicated to raising awareness of the effects of truancy, to promote positive attendance via the education system, individual schools and through community initiatives to tackle poor school attendance.
If a child is 15 minutes late for school a day, it means the equivalent of losing two weeks of school per year. Missing a school day a week is the same as losing a quarter of the year’s education. The outcome is simple – bad attendance means bad grades and the effects of it can last a lifetime.
Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, Cllr Eudine Hanagan explained: “We want to provide children in the County Borough with an educational experience that enables them to make the most of the opportunities available to them in adulthood. Tackling truancy and pupil absence is a key part of this.
“The impact of a good education on a community is profound. There is a strong connection between illiteracy and social exclusion for young people and adults. By working with schools, governing bodies and headteachers we will ensure resources available are used to the very best effect to deliver an excellent learning experience in Rhondda Cynon Taf.”
Pat is one of a team of experienced officers who work with individual comprehensive schools and feeder primary schools to help improve attendances by setting the standard at an early age.
She explained, “I work closely with schools to identify and monitor poor attendance which also involves working closely with pupils and their parents. Part of my role may also involve identifying possible social problems that may be impacting on a child’s poor school attendance.
“Working with the pupils is paramount along with raising parents understanding around the severe impact lateness can have on a child’s overall education.
“The team and school support each other by encouraging good attendance. Strategies have been introduced to positive attendance such as certificates and extra playtime which the pupils love to get involved in.
“If a child has low attendance we initiate contact with parents and try to help them adopt positive improvements for their child’s attendance.
“We work closely with other outside agencies and aim to ensure that every child has the same opportunity to enjoy a complete education experience. We also recognise that improving a child’s education can act as a gateway to a better quality of life.”
Through frequent meetings with headteachers and staff, Pat develops strategies that need to be implemented to improve individual attendance right across the board.
She is also kept updated with any specific problems affecting individual pupils as well as overseeing general statistics that are both County Borough and country-wide relating to attendance and truancy issues.
Poor attendance can have huge implications on a child’s education and parents can be summoned to court and face fines of up to £1,000 for allowing this to happen.
Officers take a multi-agency approach when working with local PCSO’s from South Wales Police, Communities First, Health Clinics, Magistrates’ Courts and GP Surgeries to combat the problems.
Tackling school attendance is part of the pioneering and robust plans to make major improvements in schools throughout Rhondda Cynon Taf.