Dealing with low pupil attendance

Dealing with low pupil attendance

We all know that if children have poor attendance at school, the likelihood is very strong they will underachieve and are much more vulnerable to sexual exploitation and criminal activity, including gangs and county lines. Overall, there is a distinct link between low school attendance and poor life outcomes.

So can we keep attendance at the highest level possible?

Here are some approaches which seem to bear fruit, especially if used in combination:

  1. Put a senior member of staff in charge of improving attendance and, if possible, provide them with the time and resources to manage it
  2. Review your attendance policy. Is it written in a way that’s understandable for all who might have cause to read it?
  3. Look again at your school’s home-school agreement. Is it clear that it is the parents’ responsibility to ensure their child’s attendance is as high as it can possibly be?
  4. Take every opportunity to push the message to parents regarding the importance of good attendance, including new parents’ events, newsletters, your school’s website and prospectus
  5. Conduct regular attendance data analyses and discuss the findings with staff, governors and, where appropriate, parents. Have a series of letter templates to send home whenever a child’s attendance falls below the agreed threshold figures. Look for patterns of absence: are there certain days which are missed more than others; do they tie in with certain subjects or activities? Does the child have any special needs or weaknesses in certain curriculum areas? Are there reasons outside of school which might explain the patterns? Look for targeted interventions that could be put in place and then analyse the success of the interventions and adapt and amend them if necessary
  6. Use anonymised data to show the link between good attendance and academic success – it rarely turns out the correlation is not there. There is evidence that parents are more likely to listen to arguments about attendance if they’re presented with data that represents your own school’s experience
  7. Allocate a member of staff to act as a mentor and supporter of a child whose attendance is a concern. Have them arrange regular meetings to check in with the pupil and search for potential barriers to them getting into school and search for solutions with the senior leader with responsibility for attendance
  8. Ensure your first day calling system for absence is effective and maintained. Contacting parents about the absence, straightaway, appears to be the most effective way of reducing the frequency and length of absences
  9. Use ‘pupil voice’ to help look for ways of improving attendance. Children will be full of ideas as to why their peers are out of school and how they might be enticed to be in school more regularly – some of those ideas might well have an impact
  10. Celebrate excellent attendance and link it to successes when possible. You might highlight the fact that scores in a test went up in line with an improvement in attendance
  11. Have a series of attendance campaigns running. These might include posters highlighting the need to be at school as much as possible, the presentation of certificates or awards and letters home for excellent or very much improved attendance
  12. If parents continue to allow their children to be absent from school, then you will need to work with the local authority to consider and impose legal measures. For more information on what is available to the local authority, take a look at the following guidance: School Attendance Parental Responsibility Measures


About NAHT

NAHT is the leading union for school leaders’ and as a member you get access to legal support and advice, discounts and deals on your daily purchases, access to a mentoring scheme and savings on our highly-rated CPD courses and conferences. To join us, visit out membership page.