Sinn Féin - On Your Side

Research into Improving Attendance in Schools serving Deprived Areas

21 May, 2012 - by John O'Dowd

The Department of Education has today published research on improving attendance in schools serving deprived areas.

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, said: “Regular school attendance and educational attainment are inextricably linked. Regular attendance ensures that pupils get the best possible outcomes from their period in compulsory education and improves their chances of employment and life chances in the longer term.”

Department of Education statistics show that attendance rates tend to be lower in schools with high levels of Free School Meal entitlement, an indicator which is generally used to signify levels of deprivation.

The Minister said: “I have made a commitment in the Programme for Government to close the gap in educational underachievement between those who are least and most disadvantaged by improving literacy and numeracy levels among all school leavers with additional support targeted at underachieving pupils.

“This research provides my Department with a useful basis for developing guidance on effective attendance policies and practice to help those schools with lower attendance rates.”

Key research findingsAn extensive primary and secondary research programme concluded that while there is no single solution to the problem of poor attendance in schools serving deprived areas, a range of strategies can, and are being applied, to help promote good attendance including:

· Positive school ethos and culture in terms of attendance.

· Implementation of an attendance policy and targets.

· Designated staff with roles and responsibilities.

· Effective recording and monitoring of attendance.

· Reward schemes for good attendance.

· Additional support and strategies for poor attendees.

· Strong relationships between schools and parents / carers.

· Links between schools and the wider community to emphasise the value of education and importance of attendance.

· Collaboration between schools and external support services such as the Education Welfare Service and multi-agency networks.

RecommendationsIn order to build on the Department’s work to date in relation to attendance, the research recommended that:

· DE provides guidance to schools on the need to introduce attendance management policies and key elements to be included within these.

· Schools are provided with an information pack setting out the main types of interventions that could be introduced – supported by case studies – to address poor attendance.

· The information pack (see previous recommendation) is supported by guidance on monitoring and evaluation – to help schools to identify the most successful interventions.

· An attendance network /forum is set up for schools in deprived areas to share information and good practice on attendance management strategies.The full report was published today by the Department of Education and can be found on the DE website at:

Connect with Sinn Féin