There is a substantial body of research showing clear links between long term achievement, health, wealth, success and happiness and attendance at school.Children who attend school consistently are likely to stay at school longer and live more successful lives. Of particular interest is the link between attendance in the first two years at school and longevity at school. What this suggests is that a pattern of attendance develops very early in school life and does not easily change. Children whose attendance is lower are more likely to leave school before achieving the necessary qualifications for success.
The Board of Trustees is expected to take all reasonable steps to ensure that students do attend school whenever it is open. The Education Act 1989 requires all children enrolled at a school to attend school whenever that school is open unless they have a justified reason not to attend. Every parent of a child who is not at school without a good reason, commits an offence and can be convicted and fined. Just giving a reason does not justify an absence.
However, of greater concern than the legal requirements is the long term impact on their life-chances as a result of students developing problematic attendance patterns. A pattern that concerns us, for example, is a student whose overall attendance for any year never reaches above 90%. The child is absent a day here or there - especially Mondays or Fridays. These students may have all explained absences, but this does not mean they are really justified. These students are likely to develop big gaps in their learning because by the end of year 8 they will have missed almost a year of school) and they will not have learned to persevere with their learning because their regular absences mean they often lose momentum. Please notice your child's attendance level and be aware of whether he/she is developing a problematic attendance pattern. It can happen without you realising it.
As a result of the importance of good attendance, we have set a school target attendance level of 96%.
Attendance levels for Terms 1 – 2, 2015
Unfortunately, the overall attendance level for the first half of 2015 was exactly 94%. This is the lowest attendance rate since the school opened. Previously the lowest has been 94.5%.
Exactly 50% of students have achieved the targeted threshold of 96% or above. This is lower than in the previous three years ( 57% in 2012, 55% in 2013 and 60.1% in 2014). 13.6% of students have attendance rates of 90% or below (the rate at which students will miss almost one year of their primary schooling if this happens every year) which is lower than the 2013 percentage of 16.4% and 15.7 in 2014 but still higher than the 2012 percentage of 12.7%). However, of greatest concern is that 6% of students have attendance rates of below 80% which is much higher than the 2% of previous years. 9% of students have taken a holiday during term time.
Family holidays overseas have continued to impact on attendance. A lesser number of students have gone overseas for holidays but this year they have gone for longer periods of time. Of greatest concern is the growing number of students whose attendance is low because of a day taken off here and a day taken off there. This is the pattern that leads to students disengaging with school over time and leaving school early in their secondary school years.
We will continue to provide attendance information with achievement reports because it makes parents aware of falling attendance rates. However, providing this information has clearly not had a long term impact on the students’ attendance. For several students whose concerning attendance pattern was flagged early, the pattern remains.
By Lesley Murrihy