Absence and Achievement – is There a Link?

by | May 10, 2021 | Education

In spring 2016, the Department of education published a report which addressed the relationship between academic attainment and class absence.

The report states that at Key Stage 2:
‘… pupils with no absence are 1.3 times more likely to achieve level 4 or above, and 3.1 times more likely to achieve level 5 or above, than pupils that missed 10-15 per cent of all sessions.’

At KS4 the study reports that:
‘… pupils with no absence are 2.2 times more likely to achieve 5+ GCSEs A*-C or equivalent and 2.8 times more likely to achieve 5+ GCSEs A*-C or equivalent including English and mathematics, than pupils missing 15-20% of Key Stage 4 lessons.’

Also highlighted by the report was the statistic that 73% of pupils who have over 95% attendance achieve at least 5 GCSE Grades, graded between A* to C. The opposite causal link was made that pupils with persistent absences are more likely to see an adverse impacts on their results, which in turn has a negative impact on future work opportunities. The report found that those with persistent absences are not likely to continue their education after the age of 16, which significantly limits their longer term career options.


Report findings by the University of Warwick

The issue of school absence is a hot-topic, one that has been well explored and commented upon by educationalists over the years. Interestingly, the University of Warwick found some other interesting results in a study on this famed link between absences and attainment. It found that;

– The adverse effect of missing lessons had a higher impact on what they termed ‘high ability’ students. Percentage- wise – they found that missing 10% of classes was associated with around a 1-2 percentage point mark drop in this particular group.

– Students who achieved well in their first year of exams had significantly lower rates of absence in their second exam years.

This last point is of special interest because it is implicitly recorded in an official study that there is likely a direct link between exam success, subsequent confidence growth and increased motivation to continue that achievement.


Absence and how to best approach the adverse effects on education

We must, however look squarely upon the fact that life and education cannot be reduced to studies alone. There are a myriad of reasons why students have prolonged absences from school, which are often complex in nature. These, more often that not, require active support from the school, local council and sometimes social services to enable the student to access and engage with learning no matter the situation. At Bristol Tutors we have, over the years, facilitated tutoring for a number of students who have really struggled to engage with education for a variety of reasons and devastatingly seen their results drop. In real life, this causal link is highly difficult emotive for students, teachers, parents and carers and must be met with a holistic and consistent approach to build up confidence and engagement in learning.

We have also seen the truth of how building confidence can boost results – although we haven’t directly tracked attendance for that! It is so encouraging that this causal link is now very much on record as part of an academic study.   Part of the benefit of working in a one to one setting with a tutor is that students can go at their own pace, be more flexible with lessons and have safe space for any needed class ‘catch up’ as a result of absences.   This helps to ensure that academic potential is fulfilled and confidence in a student’s own ability to achieve stays strong and therefore brings positive results.

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