Attendance and Achievement by Ministry of Education

Regular School Attendance Increases Likelihood of Academic Success

There is a clear link between school attendance and academic achievement.

In recent years much of the attendance data shared by the Ministry of Education makes for concerning reading.  In 2019 only 52% of secondary school students in the wider Taranaki, Whanganui, Manawatū region were recorded as attending school regularly.

While the statistics for Palmerston North Boys' High School are much higher than this, within our school there is significant individual variation.  What both the regional data and the data for our school have in common is that there is a direct correlation between attendance levels and academic achievement.  Simply put, students who attend school regularly are far more likely to achieve NCEA qualifications than those whose attendance levels are lower.  A recent Ministry of Education report exploring the relationship between attendance and attainment stated: 

"School attendance is the most crucial prerequisite for quality education - students cannot learn if they are not at school."

This same report concludes that when attendance is below 95% there is a reduction in levels of achievement.  While 95% sounds high, it still means missing half a day of school per fortnight.  The New Zealand Ministry of Education uses 90% or higher as its cut-off point for measuring regular attendance.  This means that there are students whose level of attendance is having a negative impact on their academic achievement, yet they are considered as regular attendees at school.  Interestingly, in a number of other countries 90% attendance at school would be the level that triggers concern, rather than having them considered as regular attendees.

Students who attend school 100% of the time achieve, on average, 13 to 15 more credits in NCEA than do students who attend 90% of the time.  To put it into another context, 90% attendance means that a student is absent from school for one day per fortnight.  If we put that into a workplace context, for most of us, this level of attendance would put our continued employment in jeopardy.  

In 2019, the then Associate Minister of Education Tracey Martin, identified that  “students attending 95 percent of days in Year 10 later get an average of 75 credits at Level 3”, easily enough to gain the qualification. Conversely, of “Year 10s who attend 85 percent of the time, only about half go on to achieve NCEA Level 3.”

Attendance and Achievement - NCEA Level 2 and Level 3 — Image by: He Whakaaro EDUCATION INSIGHTS

The impacts of lower school attendance are greater for some groups.  The report identifies students from disadvantaged backgrounds as having their achievement levels affected to a greater extent by lower attendance.  It also finds that the impacts of lower attendance are particularly harmful for Pākehā and Māori students when compared to other groups.  

Attendance and Achievement by Decile — Image by: He Whakaaro EDUCATION INSIGHTS

This report may also shed further light on the achievement gap.  In New Zealand, there is a growing gap between the achievement of girls and boys, with girls' achievement levels higher than boys in all measures of NCEA.  Their attendance at school is also higher.

Attendance and NCEA Achievement — Image by: He Whakaaro EDUCATION INSIGHTS

While this report considered achievement at NCEA, the impact of absence from school is cumulative.  It is not enough simply to improve attendance in any one year, although all attendance at school helps, regular attendance in all years of schooling is essential.  NCEA assesses skills and knowledge that are developed throughout a student's education, not simply knowledge and skills learnt in a single year.

Attendance and achievement data for Palmerston North Boys' High School between 2016 and 2019 clearly reflects the national patterns.  Young men with lower attendance rates are more likely to fail to gain an NCEA qualification before leaving school, while young men who are classed as regularly attending school are more likely to achieve the University Entrance qualification than their peers who have lower levels of attendance.  Simply put, every day counts.

Attendance Matters - Every Day Counts

Causes of Attendance Concerns

We appreciate that the reasons for absence are many and varied. Sickness, bereavement, tangis, family events such as weddings and sickness are all justified reasons for young men missing school.  Absences of this nature are unavoidable.

However, there are a growing number of situations where 'parental ease' is having an impact.  We see some young men who miss several classes in a day to attend a single appointment because it was easier for their parent/caregiver, or who are provided with an absence note because the family was late home from an out-of-town function, or who make non-urgent appointments during the school day.  All of these absences are avoidable.  If your son is hearing a message that your convenience is more important than his education, then he is hearing a very powerful message.  Likewise, making every effort to have your son attend school whenever possible, especially when it might inconvenience you, sends a very powerful message to him about the value you place on his education.

Again, we appreciate that there are some family circumstances that make getting to an appointment difficult and we understand that extended time may be required when there are issues with transport etc.

Disrupted sleep, in particular resulting from digital device use and online gaming until late at night or the early hours of the morning, is increasingly an issue for young men and their whānau.  Having devices in the bedroom will have a negative impact on the amount and quality of sleep your son has.  Once they fall into this pattern it is not uncommon for school attendance to slip and young men pressure their parents to provide an excuse note informing the school that they were 'sick' and unable to attend.  It does not take long for a pattern to develop that has a negative impact on academic achievement.

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Support Available

Our school Guidance Counsellors, Year level Deans and Senior Masters want to be able to work with parents to remove barriers to their son's academic progress.  If you are concerned about your son we encourage you to make contact with us sooner rather than later so that support can be put in place before any attendance issues, or other problems, become ingrained habits that are more difficult to change.

Guidance Counsellors - Mr. Steve Dawson or 3545176 ext. 764 and Mr. Brett Greer or 3545176 ext. 717

Year 9 Deans - Mr. Jason Moore and Mr. Jason Cudby 3545176 ext. 719

Year 10 Deans - Mr. Hayden Macdonald and Mr. Jacob Meehan 3545176 ext. 720

Year 11 Deans - Mr. Shaun McFarlane and Mr. Scott Davidson 3545176 ext. 767

Year 12 Deans - Mr. Steven Vindriis and Mr. Grant McQueen-Davies 3545176 ext. 765

Year 13 Deans - Mr. Bruce Kensington and Mr. Jack Siebert 3545176 ext. 766

Dean of Māori Student Achievement - Mr. Anthony Lobb 3545176 ext. 777

Dean of Pasifika Student Achievement - Mr. Lifeimi Mafi 

Accelerate Programme Coordinator - Mr. Ken Benn 3545176 ext. 739

International Student Director - Mr. Lance Retemeyer 3545176 ext. 797

Senior Master, Year 9 - Mr. Paul Gibbs 3545176 ext. 708

Senior Master, Year 10 - Mr. Grant Sinclair 3545176 ext. 709

Senior Master, Year 11 - Mr. Blair van Stipriaan 3545176 ext. 771

Senior Master, Year 12 & Year 13 - Mr. Howard Pinder 3545176 ext. 757