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June 2012
Minister Fitzgerald launches latest data on school attendance

Children’s Minister commends integrated approach to absenteeism in Dublin 8 as chronic absenteeism is reduced by 42% and overall absenteeism by 25%.

Ms Frances Fitzgerald T.D., Minister for Children and Youth Affairs has today (7th June) launched the National Educational Welfare Board’s (NEWB) Analysis of School Attendance Data for 2009/2010. The launch took place in St Francis Street CBS Primary School, Dublin 8 where an integrated response to attendance, participation and retention has reduced absenteeism by 25% amongst 10 Dublin 8 schools. This equates to a reduction of 9,768 days missed or 53.3 years of school. Chronic absenteeism was reduced by an impressive 42% per cent.

The latest report of the Analysis of School Attendance Data provides evidence of the highest ever levels of schools reporting on absenteeism with 97.1% of primary schools and 95.8% of post-primary reporting.  According to the data collected annually from schools by the NEWB and analysed by the Educational Research Centre, the figures for General Non-Attendance are lower for 2009/10. The percentage of student days lost through absence is running at just over 6% (or 11 school days per year)  in primary schools and around 8% (or 13 school days per year)  in post-primary schools and are at the lower end for the five year period 2005/06 – 2009/10. However in DEIS schools, rates of non-attendance are significantly higher than in non-DEIS schools with student absences over 20 days running at 30%, compared with 15.3% in non DEIS schools.

Commenting on the data Minister Fitzgerald stated:“While absenteeism reduced in 2009/2010, over 56,000 students still missed school each day, consisting of approximately 31,400 primary and 24,700 post-primary students.  This must remain a significant cause for concern and demonstrates the need for a sustained and focussed approach to supporting student attendance, participation and retention.”

The Minister highlighted in particular the successful approach being taken by a group of 10 schools involved in the Dublin 8 initiative. Each of the schools involved agreed a common School Attendance Policy in collaboration with the NEWB. This included the integration of Educational Welfare Service, School Completion Programme and Home School Community Liaison Scheme, all working in unison to address the absenteeism of pupils in the Liberties area. Persistent levels of chronic absenteeism amongst a core group of 100 pupils were systematically targeted. On average each of these 100 pupils missed 42 days prior to this integrated approach and this was reduced to 24 school days absence.  Overall the approach resulted in the targeted area missing 9,768 less school days - an improvement of 25%.

Commenting on the Dublin 8 Initiative, Minister Fitzgerald stated:“The approach being taken by the Dublin 8 Initiative is lighting the way for nationwide improvements and I wish to commend the 10 schools involved. I hope the national integration process which is currently underway in the NEWB, overseen by my Department, will result in more effective services in all areas and ultimately lead to reduced rates of absenteeism nationwide. Keeping children in school is critical to ensuing the best outcome for their future.”

Commenting, Clare Ryan, CEO, NEWB said:  “Non-attendance at school is an early warning system and a strong indicator of overall child welfare and a determinant of educational outcomes. Reflecting today on the 57,000 students sitting the Leaving Certificate and Applied paper, we know that patterns of progression to further study closely mirror the prevalence of poor attendance during the Leaving Certificate year. Previous studies indicate that 93 per cent of those who miss school occasionally or never missed school go on to further study. This compares with only 67 per cent of those who missed school more regularly”

“Combating the issues underlying poor attendance requires concerted action and close collaboration among schools, school support services and other stakeholders involved with children, young people and their families.

“The Dublin 8 Initiative, like so many others around the country, demonstrates clearly that an integrated approach to tackling attendance works. Three years ago the NEWB’s remit was extended to include the Home/School/Community/Liaison Scheme and the School Completion Programme with a clear mandate - to develop a single strategic approach to maximising student attendance, participation and retention.The Board is committed to implementing a new integrated service to support children, families and schools and I am delighted to announce that this will take place in the academic year 2012-2013.

Commenting on the role and work of the Board Ms Ryan added: “The National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) has a specific remit for attendance which extends beyond merely ensuring a child presents at school. It is critical that we broaden the definition of attendance to encompass the myriad benefits that education offers. Promoting positive attendance means promoting education at home, in school and in the community from the very beginning of a child’s life.

“The National Educational Welfare Board is initiating National Attendance Awards for this academic year which will acknowledge the outstanding achievement of so many children who have excellent attendance in schools all around the country. It is also an endeavour to acknowledge the massive contribution of schools and parents in supporting children to make school a priority. “

“Work is also progressing on the development of Guidelines for schools on the Development of Attendance Strategies as outlined in Section 22 of the Education (Welfare) Act, 2000. Formal guidance should provide clarity to schools in terms of responsibilities under the act but should ultimately provide practical support towards enabling children to maximise their attendance, participation and retention in schools. This is a significant piece of work which draws on the experience and knowledge of a range of expertise and will be available to schools in the next academic year”, she added.

Note to Editors 1: Summary of the Analysis of School Attendance Data 09/10

Response of Schools to NEWB Annual Attendance Report rose to their highest levels for both primary and post-primary in 2009/10

  • The response rates were in the mid to high 90s for primary (97.1%) and post-primary (95.8%)
  • Response rates rose appreciably from the previous year, up 3.7% in primary and 3.1% in post-primary.
  • The data provided by the Annual Attendance Report continue to provide information that can be used to monitor non-attendance, expulsion, and suspension in all primary and post-primary schools at a national level.

Figures for General Non-Attendance lower for 2009/10

  • The percentage of student/days lost through absence is running at just over 6% in primary schools and around 8% in post-primary schools. The figures for 2009/10 are lower than for 2008/09 and are at the lower end for the five year period 2005/06 – 2009/10.
  • Over 56,000 students miss school each day, consisting of approximately 31,400 primary and 24,700 post-primary students. This equates to a loss of 11 school days per student per year in primary school and 13 days per year in post-primary school.

Figures for Twenty-Day Absences Stable

  • The figures for twenty-day absence have remained fairly stable over the past five years, although the year-to-year variability in twenty-day absences is greater than for general non-attendance.
  • About 12% of primary school students and 18% of post-primary students were absent for 20 days or more during the school year.  Based on population numbers this is approximately 58,000 primary school students, and 53,000 post-primary students.

Non-Attendance higher in Special Schools

  • In the primary school sector non-attendance is substantially higher in special schools and in ordinary schools with special classes.

Non-Attendance in Primary School Higher in Urban Areas

  • Rates of non-attendance in primary schools are higher in towns and cities than they are in rural areas. This is particularly apparent in terms of the percentage of pupils absent for twenty days or more where rates of 20-day absences are almost double the rural rate. This pattern is stable year-on-year.

Non-Attendance higher in disadvantaged schools

  • In primary schools non-attendance is generally higher in schools involved in the School Support Programme (SSP). However, there is an important urban/rural dimension in non-attendance. General non-attendance and twenty-day absences are higher in non-disadvantaged urban schools than they are in disadvantaged rural schools. This pattern is stable year-on-year.
  • In post-primary schools all forms of non-attendance were higher in disadvantaged schools. Just under 30% of students in disadvantaged schools were absent for twenty days or more in 2009/10. This figure is down just over 2% on 2008/09. In non-disadvantaged schools the figure for; 20-day absences was 15.3% for 2009/10, comparable to 2008/09.

Expulsions Still Rare

  • Only 14 expulsions were reported in primary schools in 2008/09 and 10 in 2009/10. The corresponding figures at in post-primary schools were 128 and 148, accounting for less than 0.05% of students.

Suspensions Occur Mostly in Post-Primary Schools

  • Just under 5% of post-primary students were suspended in 2009/10. This is the lowest percentage reported across the five year period 2005/06 – 2009/10. Just 0.2 % of primary pupils were suspended in 2009/10.

Higher Non-Attendance in Vocational and Community/Comprehensive Schools

  • Rates of non-attendance are higher in vocational and community / comprehensive schools than in secondary schools.

Irish non-attendance figures similar to those in Northern Ireland and the UK

  • Non-attendance in Irish primary schools was 5.6% of student/days in 2009/10 (removing data for special schools) compared to between 5.1% and 6.9% for Northern Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales. Non-attendance for post-primary schools was 7.9% of student days, compared to between 6.8% and 8.9%.

Analysis of School Attendance Data in Primary and Post-Primary Schools 2009/10
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Attendance Strategy of Dublin 8
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