A new report from the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) reinforces the strong correlation between school attendance and student achievement, and highlights the importance of forming good attendance habits early. The Attendance Matters Spotlight report also reinforces how crucial it is to ensure students feel welcome, safe and supported at school, and encouraged to attend each day.
The evidence summary indicates that the overall school attendance picture in Australia is reasonable, with Year 1-10 students attending, on average, 92 per cent of available school days across Australia – but an area of concern is the 25 per cent of Australian school students who attend less than 90 per cent of school days. At this rate, students miss a considerable amount of school and this can lead to gaps in learning which compound over time.
Highlighting that “every day counts” when it comes to attendance, the report reinforces the importance of early learning experiences on academic and social achievement, the report recommends that school attendance should be prioritised in the formative years and that strategies for addressing chronic absenteeism need a holistic approach. Both families and the school have an important role to play in the complex task of addressing student absenteeism and enabling students to reach their potential in the classroom.
At Stanmore Public School, our average attendance has been above 95 per cent in most years. It has been down a little this year, sitting just above 94 per cent. There are a number of factors that contribute to that. These include families taking extended holidays during term time, some serious long-term illnesses, some incidents of separation anxiety and a small number of students with very low attendance rates. Because the school would really like to get our average attendance rate up above 95 per cent again and keep it there, we ask all families to see what they can do to minimise non-attendance.
Where families are planning overseas trips, it is preferable that these are planned to include school holidays to reduce the number of school days missed.
Where the issue is separation anxiety or any form of school avoidance, it is important that an early intervention approach is used and that school and families work together to overcome the situation before patterns of non-attendance are entrenched.
When overall attendance for a student falls below 85 per cent, the school will try to work with families in the first instance to improve attendance and if that fails the school is required to refer the situation to the Home School Liaison Officer for assistance.
It is important to keep in mind that aspirations for high attendance figures are about helping each student to achieve their potential.