Globally over the last few years there has been a number of occasions when our children have been forced to miss school or move to online learning due to the Covid-19 pandemic or more local issues such as poor air quality or unusual weather patterns. These instances are unavoidable, and beyond our control as parents, but it has produced a number of findings that illustrate why attendance at school is important and the affect it has on our children's performance if they miss school.
One of our Learning Coaches at EP, Mark Atkinson, has been digging into the research and found three key findings:
- Students who receive less instruction are more likely to perform poorly in exams and receive lower grades
- More time in the classroom results in better academic achievement
- Reducing pupil absences will have a positive effect on achievement and is likely to reduce achievement gaps between high and low income pupils.
Here's some statistics from the UK
During the academic year of 2018/19 across mainstream school in the UK, the following statistics were obtained regarding the relationship between absence and attainment (GOV.UK):
In Key Stage 2 (years 3 to 6), pupils who did not achieve the expected standard in reading, writing and maths in 2019 had an overall absence rate of 4.7% over the key stage, compared with 3.5% among pupils who achieved the expected standard and 2.7% among those who achieved the higher standard.
Among pupils with no missed sessions over KS2, 83.9% achieved the expected standard compared to 40.2% of pupils who were persistently absent.
In Key Stage 4, pupils who did not achieve grade 9 to 4 in English and maths GCSEs in 2019 had an overall absence rate of 8.8% over the key stage, compared with 5.2% among pupils who achieved a grade 4 and 3.7% among pupils who achieved grade 9 to 5 in both English and maths.
Among pupils with no missed sessions over KS4, 83.7% achieved grades 9 to 4 in English and maths compared to 35.6% of pupils who were persistently absent.
Generally, the higher the percentage of sessions missed across the key stage at KS2 and KS4, the lower the level of attainment at the end of the key stage.
What to find out more? Read on for some of the research literature.
What does the literature tell us?
According to Faucet theory, students improve their skills through frequent exposure to schooling, and stop making educational gains once the exposure is turned off (i.e., the faucet is turned off). Students who receive fewer hours of instruction during the school year are disadvantaged in their learning, perform more poorly on exams, receive lower grades and at the end are more likely to drop out of school before reaching compulsory education (Attendance Works, 2022). Support for this argument comes from empirical studies showing that more time spent on instruction in the classroom is related with better academic achievement (Marcotte & Hemelt, 2008). Missing school will reduce the amount of time students can engage with instructional practices, which leads towards lower levels of academic achievement. Several studies have shown that missing school, even for a limited number of days and regardless of the reason, negatively affects students' student's test performances and grade point average (Gershenson et al., 2017; Kirksey, 2019; Klein et al., 2022). In addition, according to the IOE, reducing pupil absences will have a positive effect on achievement and is likely to reduce achievement gaps between high and low income pupils. Achievement is most negatively affected if pupils are tested soon after their return to school. If feasible, and where pupils will be studying related material in the subsequent terms, delaying tests gives pupils a chance to catch up.