by Urs Cunningham

School Attendance Term 1 2018

There is a substantial body of research showing clear links between long term achievement, health, wealth, success and happiness and attendance at school.

Children who attend school consistently are likely to stay at school longer and live more successful lives. Of particular interest is the link between attendance in the first two years at school and longevity at school. What this suggests is that a pattern of attendance develops very early in school life and does not easily change. Children whose attendance is lower are more likely to leave school before achieving the necessary qualifications for success.

The Board of Trustees is expected to take all reasonable steps to ensure that students do attend school whenever it is open. The Education Act 1989 requires all children enrolled at a school to attend school whenever that school is open unless they have a justified reason not to attend; just giving a reason does not necessarily justify an absence.

However, of greater concern than the legal requirements is the long term impact on their life-chances as a result of students developing problematic attendance patterns. A pattern that concerns us, for example, is a student whose overall attendance for any year never reaches above 90%. The child is absent a day here or there - especially Mondays or Fridays. These students may have all explained absences, but this does not mean they are really justified. These students are likely to develop big gaps in their learning because by the end of year 8 they will have missed almost a year of school, and they will not have learned to persevere with their learning because their regular absences mean they often lose momentum. Please notice your child's attendance level and be aware of whether he/she is developing a problematic attendance pattern. It can happen without you realising it.

Attendance Target

As a result of the importance of good attendance, we have set a school target attendance level of 96%.

Attendance levels for Term 1 2018

The overall attendance level for the first term of 2018 was 94%, slightly lower than our 96% target. 58.5% of students have achieved the targeted attendance threshold of 96% or above. This is quite a bit lower than in 2017 (65% of students reached this target), and slightly lower than in 2016 (58.7%) So far this year 15.1% of students have attendance rates of 90% or below (the rate at which students will miss almost one year of their primary schooling if this happens every year), which is significantly higher than the 2017 percentage of 11.9% and the 2016 percentage of 11.5%. However, of greatest concern is that 4% of students have attendance rates of below 80%, which is much higher than the 2.5% level of 2017, and 0.85% level of 2016.

We appreciate that have only had one term of the 2018 school year so far, but the pattern of higher rates of school absence is concerning. 

Discussion

Family holidays overseas have continued to significantly impact on attendance. We do appreciate that trips home for family and cultural celebrations are really valuable. While we are less supportive of holidays taken during term time simply to save money, we recognise that all international travel has some educational value. However, parents do need bear in mind that during trips away within term time children will inevitably miss out on important learning, and be mindful of this when making decisions about trips during term time.

Of greatest concern to us is the number of students whose attendance is low because of a day taken off here and a day taken off there. This is the pattern that leads to students disengaging with school over time and leaving school early in their secondary school years.

We will continue to provide attendance information with achievement reports because it makes parents aware of falling attendance rates. Our school leadership and admin team tracks student attendance closely, and we report attendance to the Board of Trustees each term.

We also inform parents of attendance levels below 90% each term, and of concerning levels of lateness to school (10% or more). This is done not to pass judgement but to ensure parents are informed of the absence/lateness rates of their child/ren; this way parents can make informed decisions about their child/ren's attendance. This information will be sent out each term from our admin team rather than from individual teachers, as it is our admin and leadership team who completes tracking of overall attendance across the school.

Attendance communications will be sent out to students showing concerning attendance levels later this week. If you would like to discuss your child's attendance further, or you would like support from school with this, please contact Urs Cunningham (urs.cunningham@amesbury.school.nz) or Lesley Murrihy (principal@amesbury.school.nz). 

Warm regards,

The Amesbury team