Putting to bed the argument: automatic software vs telephone calling to collect the attendance of children in care

Posted by on 17th July 2018

Over the past 13 years, Welfare Call has successfully monitored the attendance of looked after children on behalf of authorities in England & Wales, developing the process and increasing our knowledge along the way! However, whilst our process in collecting the attendance has been refined over and over again during that time, one thing has remained constant; we’ve collected this information from the educational provisions via the telephone as the preferred method – and we always will.

There are a number of valid reasons as to why we do this, but essentially the main reason that should always be top of the list is that the safeguarding and well-being of the child is paramount.

It may be known to some that there is indeed software that can collect this data automatically and then it’s transferred directly to the authorities – but there are a number of problems with this solution…

How do you overcome the problem of alternative provisions?

The Authority is the corporate parent of the child in care, and therefore the schools must comply with providing their attendance data. However, for those children who attend more than one educational provision, it is only the on roll school who have the responsibility to report the child’s attendance and not the alternate provision. Welfare Call have identified over the years that the on roll school has marked the child as present at the alternate provision, believing that the child is attending and being educated. Welfare Call go that extra mile and we call every establishment and then relay that data back to the on roll school to mark appropriately.

Schools that refuse to have intrusive software installed?

Whilst having an automated system that delivers everything directly to the authority sounds fantastic, how do companies that provide this software get around schools that don’t wish to have a 3rd party software tool installed onto their IT infrastructure? To emphasise this situation, a soft market test was done by a London Borough as part of their tendering process and it was found that 80{33e04f7c61e1c4778ef4fb2bdaf6291ef33d4836eeccb5a545da0847903a633b} of the schools did not want unknown intrusive software installed within their schools. Schools prefer the telephone call and the calls are expected so there is no intrusion. This has become even more prevalent recently with the increase of schools converting into academies.

How do you challenge the accuracy of the data?

‘So you’re getting the data automatically and directly – so what?’

Again, whilst initially it sounds like a huge benefit to the authority with regards to time saving, how do you know that the data you are getting is a true reflection of the child’s attendance?

We’ve already explained about alternative provisions and how some on roll schools may automatically mark the child as present. However, given the hundreds of meetings Welfare Call’s representatives have held with authorities, we’ve been made aware that in some cases (mostly primary schools) that the educational establishment has unbelievably block marked some children two weeks in advance as being present. This is totally unacceptable and we must stress that although this isn’t an everyday occurrence, it leaves us with the worrying question as to how would the authority know whether the data is accurate or not, if there’s nobody to challenge what’s being entered onto computer software?

This is why calling the schools will always be the preferred method of Welfare Call as not only do we build a rapport with the school, we can challenge the mark that has been given to us if necessary.

Equally, let’s take the ‘C’ code from the DFE codes as an example (the ‘C’ code meaning ‘Other authorised absence’). It’s all well and good a piece of software reporting that a child has accrued a ‘C’ for a particular day, but surely the virtual school are going to want to know what that ‘other’ authorised absence was?

We’re happy to call the school at a specific time that suits them and even cite a password to verify who we say we are to collect the attendance and gain the reasons behind the code. Yes, making calls takes time which is why Welfare Call have 50 fully trained and DBS checked call operators contacting the schools, so you the local authority can concentrate on analysing the data and actioning what needs to be done for the child.

An ‘off the shelf’ product can only give you baseline information

If you want an ‘off the shelf’ product that reports just the limited DFE attendance codes, then undoubtedly software that can extract this information automatically will do that. However, children in care need that deeper level of analysis. Welfare Call understands the needs of a virtual school and its head teachers, so we have developed our own marks in addition to the DFE codes which are agreed with the virtual school before the service commences. This can provide a better interpretation of what’s happening with a specific child and allows the virtual school head to scrutinise the situation further.

Similarly, some alternative establishments such as youth offender institutions and non DFE provisions do not have an attendance system in place. Welfare Call can still contact the correct person on any given day at a specific time.

We’re also the only company that are able to offer a full service for both attendance monitoring and ePEP on one platform.

Ultimately, Welfare Call’s methods have been tried and tested and after all, surely 95 different authorities up and down the country using our services can’t be wrong can they?

If you feel the time is right to take a look at Welfare Call’s attendance monitoring service, (and possibly our ePEP service as well, which is very popular and we’re the market leader in this area too) then please get in touch and we’ll happily provide you with a demonstration.

You can contact Matthew, Kay or Steve on 01226 716333 or [email protected]