Schools' campaign on safety seeing results

A pioneering campaign to help keep Keighley children safe is making a big difference to the number of children who miss school.

The Children's Year of Safety was launched in the Braithwaite and Guardhouse area in September. It is supported by a range of statutory and local and voluntary organisations including three locals schools, churches and children's centres, the Council and police. It focuses on a number of ways parents can support their local school and keep their children safe.

The themes for the autumn term have been Come to School Every Day and On Time and After Eight is Way too Late. The themes stress the importance of attendance and getting sleep so that children can get up on time and be alert during the day.

The campaign has been led by three schools in the area - Merlin Top Academy, Our Lady of Victories RC Primary School and Laycock Primary School. A united message from the schools about keeping up attendance went to parents and children through their newsletters, websites and assemblies, and on a special banner displayed outside each school.

A range of activities have encouraged families to get primary aged children to bed by 8pm for a good night’s sleep so they can have a better day at school. Schools have been undertaking activities to get children thinking about when is a good time to go to bed, and the benefits of sleep.

At Merlin Top Academy, children did a whole week's activity on bedtime, including storytelling, telling the time, and had a bed "installation" in the school entrance. The bed was then raffled-off among parents as a way of engaging families. As a result, attendance at Merlin Top Academy has gone up compared to the same period last year, and unauthorised absences have halved. Braithwaite New Church made a donation towards materials for Merlin Top, while materials to support activities in the other schools were kindly provided by Damart.

The themes for the spring term are Keep Safe Online and Speak Out, Stay Safe and the themes for the summer term are Road Safety and Play Safe in the Holidays.

Lesley Heathcote, headteacher at Merlin Top Academy, said: "Children and families have really embraced the theme of Come to School Every Day and On Time. We've seen a dramatic improvement in attendance which has gone up from 95.15% to 96.88% while persistent absence has fallen from 17.87% to 9.35%."

John Devlin, executive headteacher at Our Lady of Victories RC Primary School, said: "The campaign is having a great effect on our attendance, it is currently 96.9% and is up on last year's at this point."

Juliet Nove, headteacher at Laycock Primary School, said: "This is a really imaginative way of engaging children and families on the importance of sleep and not missing school. Our attendance has gone from 95.7% to 96.73% and persistent absence has fallen from 16.5% to 10.2% which is brilliant news!"

Coun Adrian Farley, said: "The campaign is a great way of engaging families and children in doing simple things that will make a big difference to children’s safety and to how well they do at school. We’re delighted that the campaign is making a real difference to school attendance."

Coun Val Slater, portfolio holder for health and wellbeing, said: "Keeping children safe is everybody’s responsibility, so it’s great news that the Children’s Year of Safety is making a positive difference to children’s lives."

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