School Attendance – Essential for Raising Educational Standards

In a guest article from Emma Basden-Smith in the Business Intelligence (Children’s) team, we look at the latest release of data on school attendance levels across the county.

School attendance is essential for raising educational standards, and ensuring pupils maximise their opportunities and fulfil their potential. It is a legal requirement that the attendance of children of compulsory school age who are registered at a maintained school is both regular and punctual. Schools and the local authority have a duty to promote and enforce better school attendance and behaviour, address patterns of unauthorised absence, and support parents and pupils through intervention strategies. In Warwickshire, this is led by the council’s Attendance, Compliance and Enforcement Service (ACE).

Absenteeism1

In Warwickshire, and at a national level, published figures for the 2011/12 academic year indicate there have been decreases in two key measures of absence – the percentage of pupils who are persistent absentees (those who have missed around 15% or more of possible sessions; recently changed by the Government from a threshold of 20% to deal with the recognised impact persistent absenteeism has on learning), and the overall absence rate (incorporating both authorised and unauthorised absence).

Warwickshire’s overall absence rate decreased from 5.6% of possible sessions missed to 4.9%, remaining below the national overall absence figure of 5.1%. Figure 1 illustrates the differences in overall absence by school type.

Absenteeism2The percentage of pupil enrolments classed as persistent absentees in Warwickshire maintained schools and academies decreased from 5.8% to 4.8%, again below the national figure of 5.2%. See Figure 2.

At District level, pupils residing in Nuneaton & Bedworth have the higher rate of overall absence, at 5.4%, with Warwick District pupils recording the lowest rate of 4.3%.  There is little difference between the figures for North Warwickshire, Rugby and Straford on Avon; 4.9%, 4.8% and 4.7% respectively.  In terms of persistent absenteeism, the percentage of persistent absentees in Nuneaton & Bedworth Borough is almost twice that residing in Warwick District; 6.2% compared to 3.5%.  Figure 3 illustrates pupil overall absence at Super Output Area level in Warwickshire.

Absenteeism3

Taking a closer look at absenteeism rates for pupils with different characteristics we see some interesting variations.  The rate of overall absence for those pupils who are eligible for free school meals (8.2%) was higher than the national average of 7.4% and 1.8 times higher than that for those pupils not eligible for free school meals.  FSM pupils were also more likely to be persistent absentees; 13% compared with 4% of non-FSM pupils.

For pupils with special educational needs, the highest rate of overall absence was amongst those pupils at School Action Plus or with a Statement of special educational needs (8%).  This is twice that for those pupils with no identified special educational need.  Also, just under 13% of those pupils with a Statement and those at School Action Plus were persistent absentees compared to 3% of those pupils with no special educational need.  Of pupils at School Action, 8% were persistent absentees.

So what are the benefits attained through improved school attendance?  Failure to attend lessons can lead to children falling behind their peers, with the potential of leaving a pupil at a disadvantage for the remainder of their school career.  There is evidence of a clear link between poor attendance at school and low levels of achievement, whilst also interlinked with factors such as free school meal eligibility and having a special educational need.  Of those enrolments not achieving 5+ A*-C including English and maths at the end of 2011/12, 22% were persistent absentees missing 46 or more school sessions during the academic year.  The corresponding figure for those achieving 5+ A*-C including English and maths was 6%.

For further information on the Warwickshire figures, contact the Business Intelligence (Children’s) team at CSS@warwickshire.gov.uk.

More information on this topic, including links to the raw data, can be found at the Department for Education website.

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