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Attendance and Students’ School Experiences. Selina McCoy, Merike Darmody, Emer Smyth, Allison Dunne NEWB Conference 26 February 2008. Project Background. Review existing international research and policy on attendance Irish policy Analysis of data collected for other ESRI studies

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Attendance and students school experiences

Attendance and Students’ School Experiences

Selina McCoy, Merike Darmody,

Emer Smyth, Allison Dunne

NEWB Conference

26 February 2008

Project background
Project Background

  • Review existing international research and policy on attendance

  • Irish policy

  • Analysis of data collected for other ESRI studies

  • Research and policy directions

Methodology data sources
Methodology/ Data Sources

4 main data sources

  • School Leavers’ Survey 2002

  • Schools Database 1994

  • Junior Cycle Longitudinal Study – 1st Yr Data

  • Part-Time Work among post-primary students

  • NEWB Data – school level

Methodology data sources1
Methodology/ Data Sources

Data Sources

  • Different measures re. attendance

  • Different sources of information

  • Different student groups

  • Timing

  • No comprehensive data source

  • Existing data sources complementary & range of perspectives

Key issues
Key Issues

Main issues

  • Objective characteristics and attendance

  • Subjective characteristics and attendance

  • School factors

  • Outside school factors

  • Impact of poor/ non-attendance

Objective characteristics
Objective Characteristics

Key Areas

  • Gender - males

  • Age – older students; skipping school starts early

  • Social Background/Parental Education

  • Travelling Community

  • Region

Subjective characteristics
Subjective Characteristics

Key Areas

  • Attitudes towards school

  • Attitudes towards teachers

  • Self-ratings

  • Interactions with peers

Students attitudes
Students’ Attitudes


  • Attitudes to School

    Better attendance records:

    • ‘school life is a happy one for me’

    • Positive about benefits of schooling re self-confidence, communication skills

    • ‘School work worth doing’

  • Relationship with teachers

    Students who had skipped school:

    • More likely to feel teachers didn’t care about them

    • Could not talk to their teacher if they had a problem

    • Less likely to feel teachers listen to their views

Students attitudes1
Students’ Attitudes

Findings Contd.,

  • Relationship with peers

    Those who had skipped school:

    • Less likely to feel their friends took school seriously

    • More likely to feel too many troublemakers in class

  • Academic self-rating

    Students with poor attendance records:

    • More negative about present academic performance

    • More negative about potential opportunities in the future

Students attitudes2
Students’ Attitudes

Findings Contd.,

  • Parental Involvement

    • No relationship between parental involvement and no. of absences

    • But is related to no. of times late and skipping classes

  • Student Identity

    • Better attendance records among students with strong sense of control over their lives

    • Students with poor attendance records more fatalistic and higher stress (males)

Outside school factors
Outside School Factors

Part-Time Work

  • Majority working part-time

  • Males more likely to work longer hours and during week


  • Students’ feel working does not impact on attendance or schoolwork

  • Those who work actually have higher absenteeism rates

  • Part-time work is associated with increased chances of early school leaving

  • Working students, on average, achieve lower exam grades

Outside school factors1
Outside School Factors

Range of Out-of-School Activities (mid 90s)

  • Sports: positive impact

  • Social Life: negative impact

  • Household labour: negative impact (females)

  • Part-Time Work: negative impact (particularly long hours)

School factors
School Factors

School size:

  • primary – among DD schools, higher attendance in smaller schools (less than 100)

  • post-primary – smaller schools higher non-attendance

    Relationship to measures of socio-economic composition of school:

  • primary – variables in GCEB database, reading and numeracy scores

  • post-primary – schools serving disadvantaged populations, retention rates to Junior Cert, performance in Junior Cert exam

School factors1
School Factors

School Organisation and Process:

  • Social Mix in School

    Additional impact over and above individual background factors

    Even controlling for social mix, schools vary in attendance levels: Why?

  • Ability Grouping – absenteeism lower among those in higher stream and mixed-ability

  • Academic Climate – attendance higher in schools characterised by higher teacher expectations

  • Social Climate - nature of interaction between teachers and students

Impact of poor attendance
Impact of Poor Attendance

4 areas:

  • Drop-Out

  • Exam performance

  • Progression to post-school study

  • Unemployment

Impact of poor attendance1
Impact of Poor Attendance

Progression to Further Study

  • Those who frequently ‘skip’ school less likely to progress to further study

  • Even among those with similar Leaving Cert performance, those who frequently skip school less likely to progress

Impact of poor attendance2
Impact of Poor Attendance


  • Higher unemployment levels among those who frequently skipped school

  • Even among those with similar educational attainments

Future research opportunities
Future Research Opportunities

  • Data based on 2004 and earlier … considerable policy focus and resources since then on educational disadvantage

  • Need for up-to-date comprehensive research –

    • Research at primary level

    • Sampling based

    • Need to know causes of non-attendance in order to develop strategies

    • Are there projects that are working?

  • Awareness

  • Resources

  • Back-up Services

Issues for schools
Issues for Schools

  • School Climate

  • Student involvement

  • Nature of curriculum

  • Learning supports

  • Targeting schools with concentration of disadvantaged students

  • Importance of addressing issue (early) as means of preventing drop-out etc