Case study: Reducing lateness to lessons

Written by: Rhian Davies | Published:
Image: iStock

When Marple Hall School reviewed lateness levels, they found 883 hours of teaching had been missed in one year due to students not arriving in class on time. Rhian Davies explains how they tackled this

According to Ofsted’s Below the Radar report (September 2014), almost half of the teachers surveyed said that low-level disruption was a major problem in their classroom, having a medium or high impact on learning.

I agree with these findings and at Marple Hall we feel that to maximise student progress, issues such as punctuality, talking in class at the wrong time, or forgetting books or homework need to be addressed. If left, these issues can have a significant effect on how ready students are for learning.

Back in 2010, the equivalent to 35 weeks of teaching was being missed through students not turning up to lessons on time at Marple Hall School.

We have managed to reduce this figure by three quarters by working together as a team and, although we have more work to do, I would like to share some of the simple measures that have been successful on our journey so far.

Expectations for timeliness

Marple Hall School is attended by 1,430 students aged between 11 and 16 years. It is situated in an area of mixed incomes, and the number of Pupil Premium children sits just above the national average at 18.6 per cent.

Like all schools, we have our very own individual challenges, but in my view, the first step for any school – whatever their own circumstances – is to make sure that students are in the classroom, and that they arrive on time to maximise learning.

We were regularly recording students’ attendance, which was where it should be at 96 per cent, but it was the introduction of electronic registration in every lesson that gave us the tools we needed to identify regular late-comers. Once we realised the scale of our punctuality problem, we went about addressing it.

Some of the methods we have used are fairly simple. One of the most “back to basics” methods was the introduction of more bells! We have a warning bell which rings five minutes before the start of registration to give students the chance to get where they should be on time.

Then, further reminder bells are used five minutes before the end of break, just before period three, and another five minutes before the end of lunch. An increase of staff presence in the corridors during lesson change-overs also helps to move the children along.

Lateness issues are dealt with along the same lines as total absence. It is recorded in our school management information system so if a student has arrived at school but is not at a lesson on time the student’s name turns red on the system. A teacher can see instantly when a student is late and this means we can tackle it straight away. This helps us to nip lateness in the bud and prevent it becoming a long-term issue for students.

The recorded information is stored centrally and shared right across the school so that all colleagues can see who the regular offenders are and encourage them to move on to the next lesson when they are in the corridors.

We inform the parents of any students who are found to be late for class without an explanation. The simple fact that students are aware that their parents will be alerted if they are late is often enough to get them to arrive on time.

Our efforts have had a significant impact as the lost learning hours through lateness annually have now reduced from 883 to 222, which we are working to reduce even further.

Getting students organised

With our lateness strategy having the desired effect we now have the time to look more closely at punctuality data and uncover the reasons behind it. Quite often students are late because they aren’t sure where the next lesson is or they have forgotten a piece of equipment; for maths lessons this is very common.

We have a punctuality focus group and work with form tutors and subject leaders to address these issues. Where a child always forgets their maths tools, for example, we will keep a set for them in the room where they take that subject. Tutors will also check with certain students that they know where their next lesson is and if they don’t, the teacher can bring it up on the screen in front of them to tell them where they need to be next.

These few simple strategies are having a real impact as once students know that there is simply no excuse to be late they make a more consistent effort to be in the right place at the right time – they understand the importance of punctuality.

Shared vision

Our commitment to making these changes has meant they have had the desired effect. Students are in class and ready to learn and this is having an impact on the rates of progress. It has been wonderful to see what our students can achieve with the right support in place.

The delight for us as we look back is how our students have improved and when that happens, they really start to really believe in themselves. They suddenly see that the effort they have put in is delivering results. Marple Hall School has come a long way and we will continue our work to ensure our students be the very best they can be.

Simple steps to improve punctuality

  • Establish your starting point to work out where your issues are.
  • Take it back to basics – bells, presence in corridors, calls/texts home.
  • Set timeliness expectations for students.
  • Record attendance and lateness using a visible scheme.
  • Store information centrally on a management information system and share with the whole team.
  • Rhian Davies is assistant headteacher at Marple Hall School in Stockport, which uses Capita’s SIMS management information system.


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