Excellent attendance is an expectation, not a celebration: my model of effective attendance within schools.


Attendance is everyone’s responsibility.

If students aren’t in school, they’re not going to learn. Period. Indeed, Balfanz and Byrnes (2012) note how one of the most effective ways to get a child out of poverty, is to ensure their regular attendance at school.  Yet, attendance rates across the country, particularly after the pandemic, are extremely low.  So, what can we do about it?

Much of the professional development on attendance that I have attended as a teacher has been limited to leaders predominantly sharing the importance of students having regular attendance.  Yet, I believe solely sharing knowledge of why attendance is important is misguided and will lead to limited, if any, impact on increasing attendance rates.  Staff are already acutely aware of the link that increased absence from school will lead to a fall in student attainment.  Instead, I argue, leaders should focus more of their efforts on giving staff real, tangible strategies that can be used that will actually increase attendance rates within a school environment. 

As teachers within the educational system, we all have a part to play in ensuring our students attend school, not simply to boost some percentage target for the school, but to ensure we are maximising the opportunities for students to learn, achieve success, and go on to achieve whatever they put their minds to in the knowledge that they are also, crucially, safe in school. 

With this review, I propose a model of attendance that centres on three areas:

1) A multi-tiered intervention model

2) A positive learning environment

3) Linking attendance with attainment

Firstly, I suggest the overall attendance strategy must follow a multi-tiered approach.  Within the majority of schools, I argue it is impractical to have individual plans for every child with irregular attendance.  Therefore, the first stage of your attendance strategy must focus on high-level universal strategies to raise attendance for all students.  For students where universal strategies are less effective at raising attendance, a second level of intervention is required where group level intervention procedures are introduced.  Finally, where group level interventions are ineffective, the third tier is reserved for bespoke, individual plans to raise a child’s attendance. 

The second strand of the attendance strategy is that students are entitled to attend a positive, safe, learning environment, where they look forward to attending school.  Schools must be warm, welcoming environments, with exceptionally high standards and levels of teacher instruction that guarantee student success both academically and behaviourally.  Not only must students feel successful, but the more they can feel a sense of attachment and belonging to the school community, the more likely they are to attend school on a regular basis. 

This culture can be fostered by having staff welcoming students with a smile each day, using their first name regularly to build a sense of self-worth and belonging, and also by having a breadth of extra-curricular activities that children can attend.  Some of our best childhood memories come from non-academic school events.  So, the more that we can encourage our students to attend additional activities, events, or trips, not only do we build a sense of community and teamwork, but we also increase the likelihood that students will have regular attendance at school.

Thirdly, it is imperative that when we discuss attendance that we constantly reiterate its link with attainment.  Every day at school matters. Reid (2014) identifies that a child who misses 9 days of school a year, who would ordinarily be recognised as an individual with regular attendance, is likely to suffer a whole grade drop in their examination results.  Ensuring this data is shared transparently with students, parents and wider stakeholders on a regular basis is crucial in reinforcing the message that missing school is likely to reduce their attainment enormously.  We must never find ourselves in the situation where a child misses out on opportunities later down the line as a result of them not fully understanding their reduced attendance was probably the defining factor.  It is our job to overcommunicate that reduced student attendance, will reduce student attainment.

Improving school culture

Attendance is everyone’s responsibility. 

Not only is regular attendance vital for securing excellent student attainment and progress, but it is also, in itself, a crucial safeguarding measure guaranteeing student safety.  If students are in school, we know they are safe.  If they are not in school, we cannot be sure.  It therefore falls on every member of the staff within a school to understand the inherent importance in ensuring students attend school on a daily basis.  Yes, we would like them to be in school so that we can teach them, but we must never overlook the fact that for some of our most vulnerable students, school is often the safest place for them to be.

Ensuring students attend school and receive regular attendance should be welcomed, and the link to improved attainment should be reinforced.  But we must remind students, and parents, at every opportunity that excellent attendance is an expectation, not a celebration. An exceptional culture within a school should focus on students understanding that the best reward for their regular attendance at school is a fantastic set of examination results. 

Where children do have time off, there should be an expectation that children catch up missed work, with consistent messaging that they will fall further behind if they fail to do so.  Yet, this does appear to be a conflicting opinion between teachers and leaders within schools.  Heads (52.7%) and Deputies (58%) believe that students who are absent should be helped on their return to catch up work that they missed, as opposed to only 36.5% of middle managers, and only 22% of classroom teachers (Reid, 2014). Reid (2014) goes on to say that over a quarter, 26.4%, of form tutors believe too much time is spent on helping absentees.  It goes without saying, therefore, that there is a discrepancy in value placed on helping absentees.  This must be rectified if schools are to improve attendance rates within their schools. 

Early intervention is key, so making sure that the importance of regular attendance and its link to raised attainment is communicated as early and as often as possible is essential.  Messages around attendance should be woven into every aspect of school systems, including: open days, school letters, attendance calls, open evenings, and parents’ evenings.  This can be done alongside reminding parents it is their primary responsibility to ensure their child is in school.

A multi-tiered intervention model

Attendance is important for every child.  Yet, due to time and resource constraints, we cannot support every child with a bespoke attendance support plan.  As such, I propose a triple-tier intervention model.  The first tier focuses on universal strategies to raise attendance for all pupils.  The second tier concentrates on key groups of students who are still showing signs of poor attendance, having received all of the Tier 1 strategies previously.  The third tier focuses on bespoke individual plans and must therefore be saved for only the very few cases where all previous Tier 1 and Tier 2 strategies have been exhausted.

Clearly, in certain schools depending on their individual contexts, some individuals may meet the criteria for Tier 3 where in others this level of intervention may not be possible.  As one progresses through the hierarchical structure, the level of resource and time intensity increases exponentially.  It is not to say that Tier 3 strategies should not be used, but they should be preserved for the select few who are showing limited progress having exhausted all previous interventions.

Tier 1 (Universal)

The point of a universal tier of support is that it should enable 80-90% of students to meet the expectation that all children should have regular attendance (>95%). 

For those that are unaware, students are expected to attend school on 190 days during the academic year, which equates to 380 sessions (a morning and afternoon session per day).  Persistent Absence (PA), termed Chronic Absence in America, is where a child has less than 90% attendance or which is more easily recognised as a student who has more than 19 days off per academy year.  Regular attendance (>95%), on the other hand, would require a student to keep the number of days off per year down to single figures.

Although percentages should be used by schools to monitor attendance rates for individual pupils from the beginning of the year, I argue that parents and children should instead know the number of days they have had off and in relation to the number of days they are allowed off each year to still be classed as having regular attendance.

As a result, my first Tier 1 strategy would be to ensure that every child understood they should have no more than 9 days of absence per academic year to achieve regular attendance.  It should be stressed, though, that every day is important for learning and that missing a single day of school can be extremely detrimental (Childs and Grooms, 2018); not only do students miss that day of education, but the potential links with future lessons that are foregone.

A recommended strategy to keep track of absences is for each tutor to have a tracker grid with their student names on, with 9 boxes to the side of each name (see below). 

 Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 8Day 9
Student AX        
Student BXXXXX    
Student CXX       

Whenever a child is absent from school, the teacher places a check next to their name.  This simple method ensures both students, and teachers, are constantly aware of the number of days absence students have had.  Students can be reminded of the importance of how many days they have missed and it forces tutors to know and keep track of absences too, something which tutors are often unaware of!

Another strategy within Tier 1 interventions would build on the tracker chart by incorporating ‘Return to School’ conversations for students to have with their tutors upon their return.   The ‘return to school’ conversation has two key strands:

1) ensuring each tutor is aware of key absentees

2) ensuring the student knows they are missed when they are not in

Alarmingly, nearly a third of students who are absent from school believe that staff rarely or never notice that they were missing from school (Sprick and Berg, 2019).  These conversations, crucially as I will attest to later, must be framed positively whilst also ensuring that the importance of missing school is not understated.  The conversations should include:

– ensuring the student knows how great it is to see them back in school

– Asking if there was a valid reason why they were off? (Asked non-judgementally, this can help the school understand the reason for absence which can help the school to put in support measures to help improve attendance moving forward).

– Writing down what lessons the student has missed and how the student will catch up on missed work (reinforcing the link between poor attendance, and reduced attainment).

Once the ‘Return to School’ form has been completed, it should be forward to the attendance team who can then cross check with their own records. 

Another simple strategy within Tier 1 across your school is to ensure that every child receives three positive interactions before they enter their first lesson, which I term, ‘The Power of Three’.  Although this seems relatively straightforward to do, it is also easy to overlook.  Ensuring that every staff member greets individuals positively, using their first name, at the start of the school day helps build a positive culture within the school, ensuring students enjoy attending school, the second fundamental element of my model of effective attendance.

Moreover, before students even set foot in their school, parents should have to sign a parent-home agreement that documents their child will attend school with regular attendance (>95%).  This document should not be a stand-alone document but should form a part of the wider communication with parents about the importance of attendance during the transition process.  By formalising this agreement at an early stage, it can be kept on a student’s file and used if at any point the child’s attendance dips under a required level, as leverage against a parent to remind them of their primary responsibility to ensure regular attendance of their child.  This evidence is useful if any disputes around attendance arise at a later date, or if any attendance discussions eventually lead to some form of prosecution.

Community links must also be fostered to develop strong school attendance practices (Childs and Grooms, 2018).  By building connections with community leaders, organisations, youth club leaders, sports clubs, churches, and physicians, we can develop the importance of attendance together.  One strategy would be to create ‘attendance matters’ posters and ask for them to be displayed in local organisations and community hotspots.  The more awareness that communities have about the importance of children attending school to improve their attainment, the stronger the rate of attendance will be in your school.

Working with medical surgeries, such as dentists and doctors, within the local area, we can persuade them to book routine appointments outside of school hours wherever possible.  If students must attend appointments within school time, parents and students must know that they should leave school just before their appointment and be expected to return immediately following it too.

Another strategy within Tier 1 includes giving out differentiated half-termly certificates, signed by the Headteacher, to those students achieving regular attendance, and perfect attendance, on the first day of the following term.  Importantly, students should never be incentivised throughout the term to attend to receive any form of reward or certification.  Over time, although there may be a short-term improvement by doing this, these methods are inherently disincentivising over the longer term (Pink, 2011).  This is because they detract from the key message you are trying to portray, which is that the real reward for excellent attendance, is a fantastic set of examination results. Instead, the certificates should come ‘out-of-the-blue’, at the start of the next term, as a way of recognising students who did have regular attendance in the preceding term.  These, “now that [you have achieved regular attendance]” are far more impactful over the long run as they recognise good achievement, but don’t detract from the fundamental message you are trying to share (Pink, 2011).

Building on this previous point, I often see schools incentivising students to attend school by giving students the chance to win rewards such as cinema vouchers or donuts if students receive a certain attendance percentage over a given time.  Students should understand their attendance at school is far greater than the value of a cinema voucher or a donut.  Being in school means students can learn, it opens opportunities for them, and means their attainment will go up.  Providing incentives like vouchers or donuts completely undermines the message that you should attend school to improve your attainment.  Also, what do you do next time when attendance is low?  Where do you go next after giving them donuts to incentivise them? Ice creams? Hot dogs? Games consoles?

Other universal strategies include teaching students a curriculum for improving attendance which includes messages on how to create routines and structures to enable students to achieve regular attendance throughout the year.  Much like Tom Bennett (2020) argues that good behaviour needs to be taught, I argue that attendance must follow suit.  A curriculum for improving attendance should include: the importance of attendance and its impact on attainment, teaching organisational strategies (such as before bed, and before school routines), sleep habits, ways to meet classroom expectations, and teaching students how to stay healthy and free from illness.

Indeed, illness is the principal reason for absenteeism within schools.  As a result, another Tier 1 strategy should be on educating students and parents on “How sick is too sick?”.  By using regular external school communication, as well as social media blasts, and information in assemblies, we can reinforce the idea that school is far too important to miss for a minor illness such as a cold.  The message must be carefully phrased in a way that we end up creating the social norm that the normal thing to do is to come in when suffering from a minor illness, perhaps by taking some painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen before attending school (taking advice from the school nurse or medical professionals where necessary).  These forms of communication are also excellent ways to reinforce the message around attendance and attainment, and how missing a day at school will mean students will have to catch up a whole day of work in their own time, creating more work for them in the long run.

The school attendance team must be forensic in whether an absence should be authorised or unauthorised.  Even though missing a day of school, whether authorised or not, is detrimental to any child’s education (Childs and Grooms, 2018), triggers for future action by your local authority will only relate to the number of unauthorised absences by a child so it is important they are recorded correctly. Therefore, the school attendance team must be resolute in ensuring that haircuts, birthdays, driving tests, shopping, car trouble, oversleeping and more) are not authorised absences.  It can be tricky not to authorise absence for illness, but where cases are frequent, common, or follow a pattern, it is perfectly reasonable to ask for medical evidence to support any reason given (e.g. an appointment card, copy of medication etc), and for the absence to be unauthorised if required.  I must stress that this must be explained to the parent and fit within your wider attendance policy, as it will likely lead to the parent accruing greater numbers of unauthorised absences which may lead to further involvement with the school, governor panels, and local authority where required.

Other universal strategies to improve attendance include ensuring all teachers teach rigorously until the last second of the last lesson of term.  As a child, what value do you place on your last day of school if you are just allowed to watch Elf or play games with your friends? By ensuring every lesson is taught, as it would be for any other lesson in the school year, students and parents will slowly begin to realise that the last few days of attendance are equally as important as any other day of the year.  This message should also be communicated regularly throughout the academic year to parents, through external communications, to raise awareness that parents should be assured their child’s attendance on the first day of school is just as important as their very last day of school.  There are only 190 days in the year where students must attend school; we must make every second of their time with us count.

Furthermore, I would also advocate the immediate removal of any drop-down days and non-uniform days as these days are often extremely poorly attended for a variety of reasons, significantly reducing your overall school’s attendance.  I am not suggesting that non-uniform days or drop-down days are entirely worthless, but that there must be other ways to deliver the material or to raise money for charity.  One suggestion to replace non-uniform days would be to have ‘wear-it days’.  For example, one school I have visited with one of the highest rates of attendance in the country, holds an annual ‘Pretty in Pink’ day to raise money for Cancer Research, where students must attend in school uniform, but can choose to wear any additional one item that is pink to help raise money for the cause.

To support universal strategies, it is imperative that first day absence procedures are followed immaculately.  Where parents forget to call in to report their child’s absence, the attendance team will be making phone calls to those parents to understand the reasons for that child’s absence as part of the wider safeguarding responsibilities.  If, on the other hand, parents always rang in to report their child’s absence, with a valid reason, that could then be checked, the attendance team are then able to prioritise their time most effectively and deal with other students that may require more additional levels of intervention or support.  Improving first day absence procedures can be enhanced by regular communication with parents, including at parents’ evenings, open evenings, social media blasts, through the school website, and by having an easy-to-use attendance hotline that parents can ring.  Simply, at events with parents, schools can suggest that parents save the attendance hotline number onto their phone for the rare occasion that the number needs to be called.

I suggest the attendance hotline should be set up with a preliminary message, recorded by the school’s headteacher, reminding parents of the importance of their child attending school.  A message such as, “Thank you for calling the attendance hotline at ‘School X’.  May I remind you that children with increased levels of absence are more likely to experience academic failure, are at greater risk of unemployment, are more likely to be involved in risky behaviour involving drink and drugs, as well as reducing their probability of reaching university.  If your child is still unable to attend school, please leave your reason for absence after the tone.”  Yes, this message is hard-hitting, but it is intended to make sure that parents fully understand the significance of their child missing a single day of school.  Again, we cannot find ourselves in a situation where students, and parents, do not fully understand the link between attendance, attainment, and wider societal issues, so readily documented within the literature (Childs and Grooms, 2018; Bartanen, 2020).

Other proactive universal measures include communication prior to periods within the year where absence may usually reduce.  Letters and bulletins on social media in anticipation of religious events, holiday periods, and/or other contextual periods within your own school clearly communicating expectations can reduce rates of attendance dropping at these key points.  These letters often have high impact and are extremely easy to implement. 

Another universal measure that is easy to introduce is to narrow the entry and exit points within the school environment.  If students are late but can continue to enter the school from a variety of entrance points, the chances of the student being marked absent when they are actually in attendance at school is high.  By ensuring, for example, that absent students must enter through the front entrance after a certain time, one ensures that they can all be signed in (either by an individual or automated technology system) and that any remedial action can be taken straight away to prevent further occurrences.  By narrowing entry and exit points, by having a more secure perimeter, you also prevent students being able to leave the site without notice.

Ensuring that all parents and students receive regular communication about the number of days absence they have had, in relation to the figure for regular attendance is essential.  It is crucial that all parents know exactly how many days of school their child has missed to date so that they can encourage their child not to miss any further learning. 

Bullying and feeling unsafe is often a reported reason for student absence.  By ensuring that there is a clear system for reporting bullying, such as the SHARP system, students will know how to report instances of bullying and it will be easier for staff to follow up.  Over time, this should reduce the level of unkindness within your school environment, and attendance rates should rise as a result.

Another strategy to think about is improving the quality of registration or tutor time.  Many schools start the day with tutor time, where students arrive and arguably prepare for the day.  But in many schools I have visited, and worked in, tutor time is nothing more than a dressed up babysitting exercise.  Students arrive, chat amongst themselves, and wait for the first lesson bell to ring.  No wonder, then, that students are often late to school.  Conversely, if tutor time is a highly structured start to the day, perhaps a straight period of teacher-directed tutor time reading, then students are more likely to attend school as there is more of a value placed on their time. 

Tier 2 (Group level)

Tier 2 is reserved for all students where all Tier 1 strategies have been utilised and their attendance rate is stubbornly refusing to increase.  Within this tier, intervention should focus on tackling students within groups.

For students with irregular attendance (<95%), and where Tier 1 strategies are proving ineffective, parents should receive a warning letter (translated where necessary) stating the importance of their child attending school.  I would recommend that the letter forcefully reminds parents of their legal obligations to ensure their child attends school, under the Education Act 1996.  Under this Act, Section 444 (1), a parent can be fined for the non-attendance of their child up to the value of £1000.  Under Section 444 (1a), parents can be fined up to £2500 and/or imprisoned up to 3 months if this is an aggravated offence and reflects the understanding that the parent understood their child was missing school and failed to do something about it.  Within the letter, you should state that failing to ensure your child’s regular attendance, may lead to the introduction of mandatory parenting classes through the Local Authority to support you ensuring your child’s attendance. 

Although this may appear heavy-handed to many at first, it will have the desired effect in ensuring that the majority of these students improve their attendance and secure regular attendance moving forward.  This then helps to narrow down the number of students who do actually require a more bespoke level of support, which can then be rectified.  Finally, by documenting that this letter has been sent, you can also record it as an additional action on a student’s file, which can be used at a later stage if more formal measures need to be followed. 

In reality, schools have no power to enforce attendance, this role falls to the Local Authority.  Local Authorities may decide to follow alternative forms of action in due course, but I believe it’s important for parents to understand the full weight of their expectations under law.  Their child’s education and attendance at school is far too important.

Another Tier 2 intervention strategy can be to introduce group lessons with additional explicit instruction of skills to help students increase their attendance.  Building on Tier 1 interventions, students can be taught in smaller groups the importance of a bedtime/morning routine, the need to set an alarm, and to get enough sleep which can all be extremely powerful in training students to improve their punctuality and attendance at school.  These groups can also include ‘social skills groups’ whereby students can be taught, where required, how to get along with their peers and resolve any issues in the most productive manner.  Other groups can include behaviour support groups where students are explicitly taught again how to meet classroom expectations to ensure they are guaranteeing success in the classroom, making their time in school more enjoyable.

Mentors can be trained, both staff and potentially older students, to deliver these sessions to provide a ‘different face’ and one that students may be more receptive to.  Messages about creating an effective routine may be best heard from older students who have overcome similar adversity in the past, but your own context will determine this possibility.  Any mentoring sessions, along with any other interventions, should always be logged, and recorded on an individual’s file, in case there is a need for any future escalation of attendance issues in the future and for the school to document what it is doing to help raise student attendance within the school.

Another Tier 2 strategy to be used is a check in/check out system.  For students within Tier 2 Intervention processes, identifying an individual that certain groups of students can check in with and check out with at the beginning and end of each day can significantly improve their enjoyment of school, and their attendance rate.  By ensuring that students check in/check out with a trusted member of staff, we ensure that no child in these groups leaves school at the end of the day with an unresolved issue that they haven’t discussed with a member of staff.  This will dramatically increase their chance to return the following day.  The morning check-ins will also ensure that any issues that have arisen from the morning or previous evening can be addressed before they then go to their first class and are potentially in an unfit state of mind to be successful.

Students also often fail to attend school due to them being substantially behind their peers in reading and current educational ability.  Rather than going to lessons and risk not knowing how to answer questions, students may choose to opt-out of school altogether, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy that becomes harder to break.  By providing reading and mathematical intervention classes, or similar, vulnerable students at risk of lower attendance are more likely to become successful in lessons.  These groups could run during tutor time or take place during specific lessons during the school day.  This intervention should only be seen as a temporary measure, as it is imperative we get students back into a full student timetable as quickly as possible as soon as they are ready.

Tier 3 (Individual level)

Intervention at Tier 3 must be reserved for students who have not responded to any of the Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions.  Tier 3 interventions concentrate on individual, bespoke levels of support and are therefore extremely time and resource intensive.  As such, it is crucial that all other Tier 1 and Tier 2 interventions are in place beforehand before any Tier 3 strategies are called into action, for any student.

It is worth stressing that just because a child may have extremely poor attendance, that doesn’t automatically mean that they should instantly start on Tier 3 Interventions.  Prior interventions should always be tried first!

The first port of call should be a phone call from a member of staff to state that we are extremely worried about an individual’s attendance record and to ask if there is any support that their child requires.  Where prolonged absences occur, and the initial phone call has not led to an improvement in their attendance, an in-school meeting with a member of the attendance team and/or tutor where appropriate should be arranged.  At this meeting, the reasons for absence and any support procedures can be discussed in greater depth.  Together, actions can be discussed and agreed upon.

Parents should be given six weeks to ensure their child meets the agreed attendance targets before warning them that failure to meet the targets will lead to more formal action being taken, including a formal governor panel.  By asking what support is required, we help bring parents into providing solutions to their child’s poor attendance; after all, it is their responsibility to ensure their child attends school regularly, so they have a responsibility to resolve the problem. 

If any needs arise, the school can then suggest reasonable adjustments to support attendance (e.g. purchasing an alarm clock, ensuring parents are aware of the importance of reducing screen time before bed, morning/evening routines). We can also document that we are listening to the child and their parent, working with them to secure regular attendance at school, if for any reason more formal action is eventually required. 

It could be at this stage that an individual report is also introduced, whereby a member of staff signs their report card at the start and end of each day to ensure they are not only in attendance but that they are completing their agreed actions.  If the report is signed by a member of non-teaching staff, the individual may be allowed to leave their final lesson five minutes early to ensure they have time to speak to their trusted adult, whilst also ensuring they can leave school at the same time as their peers, and also maximising the chance they will be in school the following day.

Failing this, formal governor panels are another way for parents to understand the seriousness of their child not attending school.  Formal governor panels are an opportunity to present parents with a final warning.  Where children are still not securing regular attendance after approaches taken so far, parents and their child should be invited to a governor panel which can again remind the parent of the importance of securing attendance, formalise action to be taken to help their child secure regular attendance, but outline again what may happen if attendance doesn’t improve. 

This additional panel ensures the school is documenting and taking attendance seriously, whilst also providing parents every opportunity to meet requirements and to ask the school for any further support.  In this meeting, further bespoke home-school contracts can be drawn up and signed.  Failing to sign this by a parent, or non-attendance at the meeting, should be acknowledged and documented.  If these meetings are not attended by parents, they should still go ahead and will be further evidence if the case ever reaches any form of prosecution.

I must stress that prosecution must be the final step of the process once all other strategies have been exhausted.  Sprick and Berg (2019) refer to it as heart bypass surgery: only to be done when all other less intensive and invasive measures have been tried first.

If attendance does not improve after a formal governor panel, progression to the educational welfare service within your Local Authority for possible prosecution should be sought.  Although not ideal, parents within your school environment must understand the importance that you place on their child’s regular attendance at school.  Prosecution and Fixed Penalty Notices send a clear message to specific parents who are fined, but also to their peers and wider stakeholders who understand the lengths you are willing to go to in ensuring their child has every chance of success within your school.

Supported by data

Effectively raising attendance requires effective analysis of data.  Yet, good data analysis requires excellent, and accurate, data. 

One of the best ways to ascertain why students are missing school is by asking them.  Through anonymous student surveys, such as SurveyMonkey, you can gather an incredible amount of information about why students are missing school.  Based off this information, you can tailor your Tier 1 interventions and taught sessions to tackle these reasons and to challenge orthodox thinking amongst your student body.

Furthermore, tracking attendance patterns across different times (weeks, half terms, terms, years) can help you to identify key trends where you can then tailor your school communications accordingly to counteract any particularly alarming trends you have noticed, e.g. unexpectedly increased absences in certain weeks of the year, or on certain days of the week (Monday Matters or Fun-damental Fridays (Moodley et al., 2020)). 

Holiday and medical requests can be tracked, and any trends analysed and acted upon to improve attendance rates over time.

As well as overall attendance figures, it is often insightful to do unannounced spot checks during times in the school day to analyse actually how many students are in lessons at a given point.  Schools with high attendance may be shocked to see that not all of their students are always in lessons, and perhaps may be truanting the lesson or being regularly late to lessons.

Data analysis by group (FSM, PP, LAC, Year Group, Attainment, Ethnicity) and comparing these figures to local and national data should also be commonplace within your attendance team, as well as comparing your data to schools of similar socio-economic status to understand where your strengths or development areas are.


In conclusion, improving attendance across a school is everyone’s responsibility.  We must all believe that regular attendance is possible for all children given the right level of support. 

Providing immediate individual level interventions to every student with problematic attendance records is admirable but impractical.  Instead, a multi-tiered intervention model must be used to tackle the underlying causes of intervention.

Tier 1 strategies must focus on universal strategies to improve everyone’s attendance and is likely to ensure about 80-90% of students have regular attendance in school.  Tier 2 interventions focus on group level interventions, whilst Tier 3 interventions must be reserved to focus on more bespoke, individual corrective procedures for specific individuals.

Professional development for staff must focus on tangible strategies that can be used to improve rates of attendance, rather than focusing on giving staff more knowledge about how attendance is important and reminding them that current levels of attendance are not good enough.  Although this message does highlight and remind staff of the importance of attendance, from my experience it does little in relation to actually improving student attendance over time.

Finally, we must remind ourselves that for a child to be successful in school, they first must be in school.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to continuing the discussion…


Bartanen, B. 2020.  Principal quality and student attendance. Educational researcher, (49), pp. 101-113.

Childs, J. and Grooms, A.A. 2018.  Improving School Attendance through collaboration: A catalyst for community involvement and change.  Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, (23), pp. 122-138

Moodley, R., Chiclana, F., Carter, J. and Caraffini, F. 2020.  Using data mining in educational administration: A case study on improving school attendance.  Applied Sciences, (10), pp. 1-20.

Reid, K. 2014. An essential guide to improving attendance in your school.  Routledge: London.

Sprick, J. and Sprick, R. 2019.  School Leader’s Guide to tackling attendance challenges.  Ancora: Oregon.

Sprick, J. and Berg, T. 2019. Teacher’s guide to tackling attendance challenges.  Ancora: Oregon.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here