To receive the full benefits of their education, students need to attend school. This is a very simple statement, although in reality, improving attendance rates is a key challenge that most schools face.
There are plenty of Government initiatives that aim to increase awareness about the importance of attendance. To translate this awareness into improved attendance rates, a report prepared by the Auditor General of Queensland titled ‘Improving Student Attendance’, recommends a strong focus on better identifying and managing attendance practices at a school level.
With that in mind, here are our top on developing an informed approach to improving student attendance.
1. Identify students' habits early
Studies suggest that poor student attendance habits can often be formed in early year groups, with general attendance rates being fairly consistent in primary school, but notably declined in the transition to high school.
Keeping track of student attendance is obviously not a new concept, and studies have shown that identifying and addressing minor attendance issues early on, can prevent more substantial attendance issues in the future.
Setting up a weekly attendance report to identify potential attendance patterns can help you recognise any problematic trends for specific groups of students as they arise.
This report can also help bring to light any attendance trends that may be caused by underlying
curricular or pastoral issues, helping staff uncover why students are missing class and providing the
opportunity to address any issues directly.
Check out our blog on data-informed practise for more ideas.
2. Enhance Rollcall
Rollcall is standard practice in any school, however, it is also is a great opportunity to identify any attendance issues that are caused by conflicting commitments, such as extra curricular classes, guidance appointments or learning support meetings.
Providing teachers with easy access to student whereabouts at critical times such as rollcall, can greatly improve your pastoral care and student wellbeing responsibilities.
It can also provide greater insight into different areas of a student’s school life, workload and schedule, helping teachers identify trends that could be occurring outside of their classrooms, and allowing them to address any concerns before the student’s performance is affected.
3. One student, two places
As students progress into high school, they tend to pile more and more onto their plate. Whether it’s a scheduled music lesson, external course or sporting commitment, or something unscheduled such as a pastoral care meeting or a trip to sick bay, duty of care requires you to know where students are at any given time.
Putting systems in place such as self-registration portals and dynamic eDiaries can not only facilitate students taking ownership of their own commitments, but can provide staff with up to date information on student whereabouts.
4. Immediately follow up unexplained absences
Allowing unapproved absences to go unexplained can result in occasional absences becoming more commonplace. In addition to the missed learning opportunities, a pattern of unexplained absences could also indicate a lack of engagement with the school.
Consider putting together guidelines with clear expectations and policies around following up unexplained absences such as:
- An online absence acknowledgment facility for parents
- SMS follow up
Here are some great resources from the Victorian Government, including a printable checklist, for following up unexplained student absences.
5.Get your STATS right
As part of the Australian Education Act of 2013, schools are required to complete the Student Attendance Collection (STATS) in Semester 1, and Term 3 each year.
STATS data is then forwarded to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), where it is reported on the My School website. It is also used to produce several government reports including the National Report on Schooling in Australia.
Consistent and thorough attendance practices will help ensure that your school is represented correctly in these reports. Deploying a system that not only stores your data accurately but prepares your data for collection can also mean that your school can avoid much of the hassle involved in preparing your submission to the government.