The correlation between attendance and attainment is hardly surprising, as The School Services Sourcebook identifies

“Poor attendance means that students are not developing the knowledge and skills needed for later success”

Franklin et al, 2013

Being such an influential factor on a child’s education, we have put together our top strategies to improve attendance:

1. Communication

Having a strong level of communication between school staff, parents and students is vital for helping pupils develop a positive attitude towards school attendance.

We need to promote the importance of attendance early, communicating the importance of arriving to school every day and on time. Days off school for reasons such as medical appointments should be limited so that the least disruption can be made to their child’s education.

This will work towards imparting the idea to both parents and pupils alike that the odd day off here and there should not be treated flippantly.

Ensure parents and pupils alike are aware of what constitutes a reason for authorised absence and what will be considered unauthorised absence; holidays in term time, for example. The consequences for failing to comply with these guidelines should be communicated on a regular basis; a recommendation in Charlie Taylor’s report, Improving School Attendance, included the idea that

“Parents who allow their child to miss too much school should receive a fine of £60. If they fail to pay within 28 days then the fine should double to £120”

2. Intervention

An important aspect of raising attendance includes identifying the reasons why pupils may be persistently missing school. All cases need to be looked into on an individual basis with an attempt to expose any underlying issues which may cause a student to be persistently absent.

A report on the causes and effects of absence published in 2003 by the Department for Education and Skills identified the problem that

“The causes of truancy are contested. Parents and pupils stress school-related factors as the main cause of truancy, but LEAs and teachers believe that parental attitudes and home environments are more influential.”

It is difficult to overcome a problem when we are unable to identify the cause, but by observing patterns of behaviour from individual students, we can try to put interventions into place to work with pupils to overcome the barriers to learning they may be facing.

The DfES report concluded that “Schools need to change. Many persistent truants reported that they were bored with school. In addition, they were more easily able to truant when taught by supply teachers. A stronger focus on retaining staff, developing appropriate curricula, teaching styles and school ethos is needed. Very persistent truants might benefit from alternatives to school.”

 3. Responsibility

Whilst a strong relationship between the school and parents should be established, pupils should also be encouraged to take responsibility for their own attendance; this will be increasingly relevant as the pupil progresses through secondary education.

Pupils should be made aware of the extent their attendance is linked to attainment:

“There is a clear link between poor attendance at school and lower academic achievement. Of pupils who miss more than 50 per cent of school only three per cent manage to achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C including Maths and English. 73 per cent of pupils who have over 95 per cent attendance achieve five or more GCSEs at grades A* to C”

Offering support to pupils that may be facing barriers to education is a vital element, which should include an action plan to improve their attendance. Ensuring pupils have somebody to talk to at school if they are experiencing problems is essential.

Try to link in the importance of a pupil’s attendance and attainment with their future plans and goals.

4. Incentives

Just as low attendance should be addressed, good attendance should certainly be rewarded.

Targets for attendance should be in place for each pupil and improvement should be celebrated. Rewards could take the following forms:

  • Certificates
  • Canteen vouchers
  • Events or outings
  • Prizes

Having sanctions in place for pupils with poor attendance can be particularly difficult, as punishment could easily result in further absence. Each case should be individually reviewed and circumstances taken into consideration before any punishment is issued.

5. Re-evaluation

Once any underlying issues with individual students have been identified, one of the most important things we can do as educators is re-evaluate our methods.

I’m sure many of you reading this article will be thinking that you already hand out certificates or prizes for good attendance. Extrinsic motivation alone, however, will not eradicate the problem of attendance in many cases.

We need to focus our attention on promoting a positive attitude to learning which will encourage involvement in all areas of school life, whether it is greater involvement in lessons or participation in extra-curricular activities.

As mentioned earlier, pupils have stated boredom as a reason for persistent absence, so we need to look our current methods and adapt accordingly, which may involve re-evaluating teaching styles to re-engage these individuals with education.

How are you improving attendance in your school? What difficulties are you facing?

Share your views below.