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Support for education welfare staff welcomed; FRAMEWORK LAUNCHED.

Byline: GARETH EVANS

UNION leaders have welcomed the launch of a new support document for education welfare services in Wales.

The All Wales Attendance Framework quantifies for the first time the role and responsibilities of education welfare service workers.

Currently, every local authority in Wales has its own service but provision varies and the document has been designed to ensure consistency.

Education welfare services work closely with teachers, parents and pupils to ensure young people attend school, working particularly on cases of persistent absenteeism. The document, launched this week by Education Minister Leighton Andrews, stems from the National Behaviour and Attendance Action Plan.

Its long-term aim is to raise levels of attendance in Welsh schools, improving standards and performance.

Many education welfare service workers are not officebased so the new framework provides a CD of letters, work-based templates and practical policies to ensure consistency in provision.

Mr Andrews said: "We know that absenteeism continues to be a concern in Wales. When a child is not in the classroom, the child isn't learning and that is unacceptable.

"The education welfare service, along with schools, has an integral role in raising levels of attendance, so it's extremely important that we give them the guidance and support they need and have called for.

"This is the first time a document of this kind has been published in Wales. I hope that by giving education welfare services the tools they need to do their job we can reduce absenteeism in Wales and drive up standards across the board."

Anna Brychan, director of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) Cymru, said attendance levels are a major priority for schools.

"This gives us a clear all-Wales plan that emphasises that school attendance is the shared responsibility of schools, local authorities and, crucially, parents," she said.

"We have been worried about local authority capacity to give the targeted support needed to schools and parents. The publication of this document indicates that capacity problems will be addressed."

Dr Philip Dixon, director of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) Cymru, welcomed the framework. "If a child isn't in school then they cannot be learning, and if they are not learning then their whole life chances are imperilled," he said.

"These actions will help standardise the education welfare service across Wales and ensure equality of delivery. The clear direction on so-called home education is also welcome as it reminds parents of their duty to provide a wide and balanced education for their children and we look forward to more rigorous scrutiny of those who are taking their children out of the schooling system."

Newport's senior education welfare officer Val Davies said local authorities had been heavily involved in piecing together the document.

"The new framework will make a significant difference to our role in working with schools and the local authority to raise levels of attendance," she said.

"By providing standardised documentation and template for letters, for the first time there will be consistency across Wales and that is to be congratulated."

Swansea-based Professor Ken Reid, chair of the National Behaviour and Attendance Review (NBAR), supported the launch.

He said: "I very much welcome this major step forward for the education welfare service in Wales who undertake such a valuable role in Wales on behalf of schools, teachers, parents, pupils and local authorities. The entire NBAR team will be delighted by this significant step forward in helping to create a fully professional and accredited service for Wales."

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Education welfare services staff work particularly on cases of persistent absenteeism
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 10, 2011
Words:592
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