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 release of the Attendance Matters Spotlight report is also a reminder of how crucial it is to ensure students feel welcome, safe and supported at school, and encouraged to attend.
The evidence summary indicates that the overall school attendance picture in Australia is good, with year 1-10 students attending, on average, 92% of available school days in Australia – a rate comparable to other countries with high performing education systems.
Nevertheless, there remain areas of concern including that 25% of Australian school students attend less than 90% of school days, and that school attendance decreases as remoteness increases.
The report also identifies that there remains a notable difference in attendance rates between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and non-Indigenous students. In 2018, the overall national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander attendance rate was 82.3% compared to 92.5% for non-Indigenous students. This shows that there is still much more work to do to lift attendance rates for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students.
Highlighting that ‘every day counts’ when it comes to attendance, the report reinforces the negative correlation between absence from school and achievement, which is cumulative and can affect academic outcomes in future years of schooling.
Given the importance of early learning experiences on academic and social achievement, the report identifies school attendance should be prioritised in the formative years, and that strategies for addressing chronic absenteeism must take a holistic approach.
The report also highlights the important role families, schools, policy makers and the community have to play in the complex task of addressing student absenteeism and enabling students to reach their potential in the classroom.
AITSL CEO Mark Grant said while the issues contributing to absenteeism are complex and challenging, it is important that systems, sectors and jurisdictions across Australia continue working together to ensure schools are welcoming places that students want to attend.
“I’m proud to release this report to provide a summary of evidence the teaching profession and decision makers across the education sector can use to reflect on their approach to the critical issue of ensuring Australian school students attend and truly engage with their learning,” Mr Grant said.
“The findings reinforce that there remain particular challenges to address when it comes to attendance and that understanding the relationship between attendance and achievement can help teachers, school leaders, parents, and school communities promote positive attendance habits and tailor early and individualised interventions, to address problematic absenteeism and lift outcomes for students.
“Policies and responses at the school level will be most effective if they simultaneously target factors both ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ the school gates, showing that we all have a part to play when it comes to school attendance.
“While there are many complex issues at play when it comes to school attendance, we shouldn’t shy away from the challenges. Clearly it is crucially important to involve families and communities in purposeful, authentic and ethical ways to provide students with every opportunity to reach their potential.”
The AITSL Attendance Matters Spotlight report can be found here on the AITSL website.