Case Study

Understanding the drivers of low attendance

ImpactEd Evaluation launched the Understanding Attendance project to help schools and trusts to identify the drivers behind low attendance in their contexts and what initiatives they can put in place to address this. Crucially this is not just about looking at what’s happening with attendance but why it’s happening.

Here, Mounts Bay Academy, an 11-16 school with over 1000 pupils near to Penzance in Cornwall, describe their experience of participating in the project so far this year.

Reasons for undertaking the attendance project

Persistent absence levels have increased over the last year. The School Impact Platform offers an opportunity to use social and emotional measures to gain fresh insights into the wider context of pupils across the school in order to gain an understanding of the influences and drivers behind this low attendance.

Research conducted

Mounts Bay completed whole school surveys looking at:

  • Pupil wellbeing
  • Grit
  • Sense of school membership
  • Pupil understanding of the importance of attendance
  • Questions about the drivers behind attendance
What did they learn?

The findings suggest that pupils with low attendance often had lower wellbeing, particularly those in Year 7. We also saw that pupils with low attendance tended to have a weaker sense of school membership than those with higher attendance. This disparity tended to increase further up the school, therefore suggesting that a sense of belonging and feeling a part of the school is more important to older pupils in terms of their likelihood to attend school.

From the individual question responses, it appears that pupils who worry about the consequences of arriving late to school were less inclined to come to school. Given this link between anxiety over lateness and absence it may be helpful to revisit late procedures to ensure that pupils are rewarded for attendance and understand that the value of attending is more important than any results of being late. Additionally, those lacking stable routines at home, including regular breakfasts, were also more prone to irregular attendance.

Finally, we also explored the link between a low sense of school membership and low attendance, and it appears that pupils who felt less rewarded, more disconnected from the school community, or didn’t report having as much pride in attending the school were less likely to attend.

Next steps

The  next step will be to use the individualised reporting available on the School Impact platform to delve into the specific pupil data. This will help to identify those pupils who might need additional support. Support packages may include supporting low wellbeing, building a sense of belonging and pride in the school and working with pupils to build routines.

Mounts Bay will reissue the questionnaires later in the year to see how effective their strategies have been: both those focused on the whole school and those focused on  supporting pupils identified as in need of extra support.

Find out more about the project and register your interest to take part