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Tackling chronic absenteeism in schools

chronic absenteeism
How are schools dealing with chronic absenteeism? Source: Vadim Fomenok/Unsplash

Combatting chronic absenteeism is a continuous struggle for both primary and secondary schools.

A term that translates to students missing 15 or more days of school each year, chronic absenteeism can be linked to negative consequences, such as disengagement from school, low grades and an increased risk of dropping out.

A US Department of Education assessment found that over 7 million students across the country missed 15 or more days of school in 2015-16, and approximately 800 school districts reported that more than 30 percent of their students missed at least three weeks of school.

A widespread issue in the global education sphere, chronic absenteeism may prevent children from reaching early learning milestones and trigger a downward spiral of study failure.

However, chronic absenteeism isn’t always the student’s fault.

“Education can only fulfil its promise as the great equalizer – a force that can overcome differences in privilege and background – when we work to ensure that students are in school every day and receive the supports they need to learn and thrive (…) At the same time, we know that many students experience tremendous adversity in their lives – including poverty, health challenges, community violence, and difficult family circumstances – that make it difficult for them to take advantage of the opportunity to learn at school,” the US Department of Education explains.

How to tackle chronic absenteeism in schools

A positive support system is one way of maintaining student engagement and motivation.

For instance, a simple ‘meet and greet’ plan every morning would go a long way. By taking turns to stand at the school gate and welcome learners into their lessons, teachers can help students feel less like a number and more like an individual.

One way in which primary schools promote a positive support system is by having ‘meet and greet’ charts at the front of the classroom door.

With three or four options to choose from, an everyday greeting can range from a high five to a friendly hug.

Another way to keep track of chronic absenteeism in schools is to create a specialised attendance team.

Monitoring real-time data of students’ attendance habits means the school has time to intervene and question either the parents or the pupils about days they have missed.

In larger schools, an attendance team would be a great way to ensure no students slip through the net, while in smaller schools, they may only need to appoint one attendance assistant who knows each student by name.

Alternatively, schools can keep awarding attendance certificates and awards to pupils, promoting a positive approach to regular education.

If learners view attendance as one of their main priorities, they might try harder to achieve a high attendance count.

Rather than immediately scolding students that fall behind, teachers and faculty members should also try to understand the reasons behind low attendance.

By tackling the issue at the root, there’s a chance for attendance numbers to successfully grow.

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