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Absenteeism - a best practice approach
Transcript of Absenteeism - a best practice approach
If schools are welcoming and supportive, students are less likely to choose to be absent in the first place, and will make greater effort to come to school because they want to be there.
Promoting Attendance in Discipline Areas
Responding to students
Working with parents and carers
Understanding the issues...
What is absenteeism?
Element 3 of the DEECD document counts as an absence, any day or half day in which a student does not attend school. 
The Auditor General's report 2004  described truancy as "the persistent, habitual and unexplained absence from school of a child of compulsory school age, although it can occur with parental knowledge and sometimes consent."
With no fixed time period to define chronic or serious truancy or absenteeism, this tells us that all unexplained absences are serious.
How is attendance
relevant to student wellbeing?
The FSSS states that "Regular school attendance is one of the factors contributing to a student's wellbeing and success." 
Various studies [4,5,6] suggest that there are correlations between absenteeism and consequences such as crime, adolescent pregnancy, unemployment in adulthood, the underdevelopment of language and communication skills and other consequences.
Time is an important factor in attendance. As time passes it is more difficult for the student to break the habit and rejoin the classroom.  This is one more reason that any instance of non attendance should be addressed as promptly as possible.
1. DEECD 2007, Effective Schools are Engaging Schools: Student Engagement Policy Guidelines, by DEECD, State of Victoria.
2. Auditor General Victoria, 2004, cited in Cook, LD & Ezenne, A 2010, 'Factors Influencing Students' Absenteeism in Primary Schools in Jamaica', Caribbean Curriculum, vol. 17, pp. 33-57.
3. Education Victoria, 1999, Framework of Student Support Services in Victorian Government Schools, (FSSS), Department of Education, Victoria.
4. Reid, K 2008, 'The causes of non-attendance: an empirical study', Educational Review, vol. 60, no. 4, pp. 345-57.
5. Wilson, V, Malcolm, H, Edward, S & Davidson, J 2008, ''Bunking off': the impact of truancy on pupils and teachers', British Educational Research Journal, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 1-17.
6. Ribar, DC & Haldeman, LA 'Changes in Meal Participation, Attendance, and Test Scores Associated with the Availability of Universal Free School Breakfasts', Social Service Review, vol. 87, no. 2
7. Communications Division for Data, Outcomes and Evaluation Division Department of Education and Early Childhood Development 2009, 'The state of Victoria’s children 2008 A report on how children and young people in Victoria are faring '
8. Sheppard, A 2011, 'The non-sense of raising school attendance', Emotional & Behavioural Difficulties, vol. 16, no. 3, pp. 239-47.
9. Image from <http://www.blogher.com/files/School-desk.jpg>
10. Kemp, M 2009, 'Parent of truants face $7500 fine', The Advertiser.
11 DEECD 2013, Effective Schools Model, by DEECD, State Government Victoria.
12. 'Truancy is a crime' YouTube video sourced from - youtube.com/watch?v=9thssHfE62U
13. 'If you wanna be cool, stay in school' YouTube video sourced from - youtube.com/watch?v=WkayCY5paMM
14. Mann-Erickson G & Martinez, J 2007, 21 ways to engage students in school, National Centre for School Engagement
15.Eastman, G et al. 2007, Finding effective solutions to truancy, What works, Wisconsin - Research to Practice Series
School based resources
The Department of Education Website Documents that outline strategies to help students attend school regularly.
The website is www.education.vic.gov.au
Documents include Keeping Kids at School, Process for Increasing and Improving School Attendance and Sample Attendance Policies.
Each of these outlines examples to improve attendance in schools, through policies, teacher practice and ways of approaching the issue with students involved.
The Department of Education website also provides resources for parents who have questions regarding student attendance.
It's Not Ok To Be Away is a 'statewide initiative building a school and community approach to the issue of student attendance'.
The program and brochures support parents and guardians by answering their questions about student attendance and where they can get help.
Parents and guardians can also ask teachers at their school for help, so that the teachers can work with the school policy and parents and guardians to improve attendance.
How attendance issues affect your classroom
It can be difficult to set up a safe and supportive classroom if you have to overcome resentment against students who are frequently absent.
Practicals and group work are difficult to plan and lessons can lose their flow and progression.
Simple instructions can become an alienating issue, if you ask students to go home and observe something or prepare something, you must always have the absent student in mind in case they turn up. When they do turn up, they may be unsettled and disruptive and teachers are sometimes reluctant to address their disruptive behaviour for fear of reinforcing their absenteeism. 
The absent student
Truancy can become a vicious circle, as time passes, the student may have more reasons to stay away. For example, never being picked as a partner or group member could cause a student to feel isolated from his or her classmates.
Inadequacy or a lack of friends may be a problem but continued absence makes this worse .
The rest of the class
Those students who attend regularly may become frustrated by the amount of time they have to spend waiting while the teacher assists habitual absentees to catch up. 
If yours is a class that has a practical component, absenteeism can pose additional problems. Partners or group members may be left to carry the burden of the work and may fall behind or finish late through no fault of their own. This can be an issue with any group activity and it seems obvious that habitually absent students may not be a first choice as a partner or group member.
Try to communicate with the student and work out what problems they are facing.
Have catch-up work wherever possible.
Try to keep in touch via the school email or Facebook accounts.
Try to work out a plan of action with the student.
Try to disrupt the other students' learning as little as possible, to reduce feelings of resentment.
Wherever appropriate, refer the student to school or community resources and support services.
Offer your support.
Don't alienate the student with ridicule or shame.
Don't use all available class time to help them catch up, other students need you too.
Don't assume you know what's wrong. Ask.
Don't make support seem like charity.
Don't overwhelm the student with a mountain of catch-up work, coming back to school might seem impossible.
Students should be attending school
(excepting medical reasons) to get the
of their education.
Ensuring parents are aware of the school's attendance policies lets them know what is the school's job and what is theirs. 
"Schools need to be places where students want to be" - Eastman 2007
Maintaining effective & timely communication between home and school is essential.
Encouraging parents to get involved in their student's learning and in the school's activities (PFA meetings, carnivals and events, decision making etc) extends the welcoming and inclusive attitude to them too. 
Helping families access professional support resources and services for students, families and schools.
Best Practice: A summary of strategies
Implement the Effective Schools Model Program  supported by the Department of Education which includes:
Make students and teachers be accountable for attendance and recording and monitoring the attendance.
Have high expectations of all learners, whether they come to school regularly or not.
Ensure the students are in a stimulating and secure learning environment.
Talk to the students about why they find it hard to come to school and support them without ridiculing them.
Give the students time to catch up on work they have missed-do not give them a day to complete a week of work.
Students who are frequently absent from school lose valuable learning opportunities, in both academic and social regards.
Students need to be aware of the expectations
For most students this will mean turning up to school every day unless unforeseen circumstances occur.
The strategies that are going to have the best effect on absenteeism are proactive ones.
There are lots of proactive strategies and the ones needed to be used are dependent on the reason for absenteeism but some used are;
Introduction of breakfast clubs
Prizes for attendance
Support for students with difficulties both at home and at school
Mentor groups instead of home groups
A positive, safe and supportive school environment that facilitates students
achieving their full potential.
A range of curriculum and/or educational programs that focus on resiliency, reduction of risk behaviors and promotion of help-seeking skills. 
Whole School Strategies
Including all students is NOT a one off effort. Constant and ongoing support for students (especially those at risk) needs to be provided.
This may involve close attention to student behaviour during any significant change or period of stress (new schools, puberty, exam period, a sudden change at home etc.)
All students learn best when they experience success through active participation and by being engaged in purposeful learning.
Creating interesting and relevant learning programs for students gives them a sense of purpose and motivation for learning.
Schools need to encourage the attitude that parents, carers and schools need to be
in the education of young people.
Student attendance is based heavily on the attitudes to school, and these are often derived from the attitudes of the parents.
Extending the inclusive and welcoming programs to parents and carers will improve attitudes and relations with the school - improving student's attitudes as well. 
Things to Avoid
Positive proactive strategies are always preferable to reactive responses - using negative reinforcement and fines will only degrade the positive relationships between parents and schools.
To review what you have learned go to;