Q: Is there a risk of breaching data protection laws?
A: We do not ask for any data that is not needed, no software is installed on to schools systems, so there is no risk of gathering data not intended for our use.
Q: What if we don’t have the funding for this service?
A: We understand the budgetary constraints some authorities have. Therefore, we have the ability to either pilot the scheme with a select number of children or specifically target the in or out of borough children.
Q: Do your staff need educational training?
A: No, we are a reporting organisation. No certified educational training is needed to ask a school if a particular child is present and similarly, no training is required to ask a parent or carer why a child is absent – only a pre-agreed script between the authority and ourselves. However, our operators do need training on how to utilise and manage our maintenance / database system. Once the absentees have been identified and the reason for their absence confirmed this is then reported back to either the education welfare department and/or the social services department who have trained staff to deal with the issues raised.
Q: What if we have direct software links to the schools registers?
A: All this does is give you access to the attendance data. Someone then has to collect the data, collate the data and action the absences, where applicable. We do it all and simply report the absences to you on a daily basis complete with the reason for the absence as given by the carer/parent of the child. Software cannot do this, it can only give present or absent breakdown. Having a personal relationship with a school by calling daily, as we do, also unearths other information that couldn’t be known by simply pulling the data using a software application.
Q: How can you help if we have no issues with attendance?
A: This service is not only about attendance issues. All authorities have a legal responsibility to report LAC attendance information back to central government on the SSDA903 document. We provide this information, updated daily, to satisfy these requirements at a minimal cost, with no impact on existing administration procedures and staff.
Q: Wouldn’t this contravene the human rights of the children?
A: This is totally untrue. We are acting as the legal representatives of the corporate parent and as such has a right to check on the attendance of their wards at whatever frequency the authority sees fit.
Q: Wouldn’t it be cheaper to do the work in-house?
A: It may well appear, at first glance, to be cheaper to collect the data in-house. We know from experience that the collection and collation of data may well occur on a half term or full term basis and that the ability to react to any developing attendance issues is lost. The collection of the data is done by either EWO’s or the dedicated LAC virtual head teacher, both of whom are expensive resources to use for a simple data collection exercise. If you are comparing like for like service delivery, then we guarantee that no authority will be able to deliver a DAILY ATTENDANCE check, and action all absentees, every day, for a similar or even lesser cost.
Q: Surely you’d aggravate the schools by calling them all the time?
A: We are not in the business of trying to cause friction between the authority and schools. Once the school know who we are we begin to build on that relationship and they become used to the call and have the information ready on demand. We currently contact approx. 8,000 schools a day and we have less than 1% that are against this method. However, we can contact once a week as a last option if this is recommended by the authority.
Q: How robust are your security measures, given the sensitivity of the data?
A: There are two ways we can supply the attendance reports to authorities, depending on preference. The first is by secure email where we’ve implemented Egress software – ( https://www.egress.com/local-central-government/
) and the second is through our robust extranet portal. The extranet uses an SSL connection whilst sending data to and from any location, so the data is kept secure. We are also penetration tested once a year by an independent CREST accredited third party to make sure that the portal cannot be hacked. All our data is backed up and stored offsite in the event of a disaster (which has never been the case!). The Drives containing the data are also fully encrypted. We have never outsourced or commissioned a third party company to aide in the gathering of this information. If you’d like a more detailed document outlining all of our security measures, then please feel free to contact us.
Q: Am I right in thinking there’s no legal requirement to gain attendance information for youth offenders?
A: This point is absolutely right but this doesn’t or shouldn’t stop the department from wanting to check on their youth’s educational progress. We not only notify the educational establishments, parents/carers and even children themselves (if over 16) with ‘introduction to service’ letters, but we also stress that it is the will of the authority to try to improve the educational attendance of the children.