A Call to Improve Pupil Attendance in Schools

In the wake of the unprecedented challenges brought on by the global pandemic, the education landscape finds itself grappling with a lingering and significant issue, for both primary teaching and secondary teaching – persistent school absence.

As we delve into the heart of this matter, the profound impact of persistent school absence on children's education and overall wellbeing cannot be understated. Recent data serves as a worrying reminder to the extent of its impact and highlights an alarming increase in absenteeism, emphasising the urgency of addressing this issue head-on.

The repercussions of persistent pupil absence extend far beyond mere numbers on a chart. They impact the very essence of a child's educational journey, raising concerns about the implications on their growth, development and future prospects.

So how do we address this challenge and ensure that every child has the opportunity to thrive in the classroom?


Let’s begin by unraveling the complexities of pupil absence in schools, including potential barriers and push and pull factors, and explore how we can work together to improve attendance, both as a school team and in partnership with others.


What factors can impact and affect pupil attendance?

When a pupil's attendance drops, it's vital to use existing information to understand why. This ensures staff can engage effectively with both the pupil and their parents/carers.

 Several factors linked to persistent absence include:

  • Economic challenges for pupils eligible for free school meals (FSM)
  • History of suspensions or exclusions increases the risk of attendance difficulties
  • Attendance in alternative provision can disrupt regular school attendance
  • Looked-after children face unique challenges impacting attendance.
  • Conditions like anxiety hinder regular school attendance.
  • Challenges such as bereavement or being a young carer affect attendance.
  • Transitions, exam years and stress can lead to attendance concerns.
  • Pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) may need extra support.
  • Language barriers can be a contributing factor to attendance challenges for pupils for whom English is an additional language.

It’s important to note that pupils with multiple risk factors are more likely to become persistently absent.


What do we mean by attendance push and pull factors?

Attendance push and pull factors are terms commonly used to describe the reasons that either encourage and compel pupils to attend school (pull factors) or discourage them from attending (push factors). Understanding these factors is an essential part in beginning to address attendance issues effectively. 



This editable resource in our Attendance Co-ordinator: Monitoring and Pupil-Focused Planning Bundle supports this process by allowing you to explore these factors with individuals, including the ones listed here.

Pull factors (attractions to school attendance) for an individual pupil may include:

  • A curriculum that captures pupils' interest and is relevant to their lives.
  • A school with a supportive and positive environment, including strong teacher-pupil relationships.
  • Participation in sports, clubs and other extracurricular activities can motivate pupils to attend regularly.
  • Strong friendships and a sense of belonging to the school community can encourage individuals to attend. 

Push factors (barriers to school attendance) may include:

  • Negative social experiences such as bullying can act as significant push factors, making pupils reluctant to attend school.
  • Challenges at home, such as family conflicts, financial issues or responsibilities as caregivers.
  • Physical or mental health issues, including chronic illnesses or anxiety.
  • Persistent academic difficulties or a lack of support for learning challenges.
  • Ineffective or disengaging teaching methods.


How can I identify pupil barriers to attendance?

A pupil’s attendance difficulties are often symptomatic of deeper issues that require careful examination and targeted intervention. To address persistent absence effectively, it’s crucial to gain a comprehensive understanding of the specific challenges faced by the pupil and their family. This understanding forms the basis for creating a bespoke approach that tackles individual barriers, which is why we created this bundle to allow anyone leading attendance to create pupil-centred approaches.

Triangulating information from various sources is necessary to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the factors contributing to attendance challenges. This can include reasons shared during absence reporting or patterns identified, safeguarding records and behaviour logs, observations of changes in behaviour and attitudes, and any factors previously raised or identified.

What strategies can improve pupil attendance?

Improving attendance is a multifaceted task that involves implementing strategies at both the whole-school level and through individualised approaches.

If we're thinking about whole-school strategies, the entire Attendance Co-ordinator: Whole-School Strategy and Audit Bundle is geared towards this process, saving you time and supporting your thinking to create an attendance strategy that works.


Whole school strategies to improve pupil attendance:

  • Develop a comprehensive attendance strategy to identify key areas for improvement and set clear targets for attendance rates.
  • Celebrate and recognise instances of good attendance and reinforce the significance of regular school attendance among pupils, parents and staff.
  • Use attendance data effectively to identify patterns and trends.
  • Provide comprehensive training to all staff members on identifying and addressing attendance issues to foster a collaborative environment where staff members work together to enhance overall attendance.

As well as a whole-school approach, individual measures are also important.

Individual pupil measures to improve attendance

  • Develop individualised attendance plans for pupils facing persistent attendance challenges and collaborate with parents, carers and relevant support services to tailor interventions based on the specific needs of each pupil.
  • Establish effective communication channels with parents and carers.
  • Explore flexible learning arrangements for pupils facing unique challenges.

If you're looking for whole-school strategy plus pupil-focused measures, our comprehensive Attendance Strategy and Monitoring Training Pack helps to uncover ways to improve pupil attendance and create attendance intervention plans that are bespoke to the child.  

How can CPD for teachers support pupil attendance?

Continuing professional development (CPD) for teachers plays a crucial role in supporting pupil attendance by enhancing their skills, awareness and strategies. CPD can provide teachers with insights into the various factors affecting attendance, including socio-economic issues, health challenges and cultural considerations. This understanding enables teachers to identify and address attendance barriers more effectively.

One way of providing training for staff on attendance is to use scenarios. Attendance scenarios serve as invaluable tools for staff members, offering a practical and contextualised approach to understanding and responding to real-life attendance situations, highlighting the need for a personalised approach when addressing attendance matters.


There are six customisable attendance scenarios in this Attendance Staff Training Bundle, covering bullying and physical and mental health, child criminal exploitation (CCE), finance, sickness-related absence, substance addiction and young carers. By engaging with these scenarios, staff members gain hands-on experience in handling diverse challenges that may arise in their roles. Each scenario has a complementary PowerPoint that can be displayed in a training session or INSET, allowing staff to collaborate and discuss how to break down barriers to attendance and support the pupil's individual circumstances.

Also included is a ready to use PowerPoint training session on Working Together to Improve School Attendance which highlights the key parts from the DfE document that are applicable to teachers and support staff. 

Behaviour management in schools 

CPD focusing on equipping teachers with effective behaviour management strategies and creating a positive and engaging classroom atmosphere will likely contribute to improved attendance, as pupils are motivated to attend classes they find interesting and supportive. A Behaviour and Attitudes Audit can be an effective starting point to help decide the focus of CPD that would be most effective for your staff.

We also have ready-to-use behaviour CPD courses and PowerPoints available for instant download, useful for addressing particular areas of behaviour management in your school.

Mental health awareness and wellbeing in schools

Training that addresses mental health awareness equips teachers to recognise signs of stress, anxiety or other mental health issues that may influence attendance. This knowledge enables them to provide appropriate support and referrals. This Mental Health and Wellbeing Audit can be a useful starting point as you delve into the needs of your unique setting.

Safeguarding training

Ensuring safeguarding CPD is regular and kept up to date helps to ensure staff stay vigilant to safeguarding factors that may be impacting pupil attendance. These Safeguarding Training Packs includes scenarios, snapshots and quizzes to support ongoing safeguarding professional development.

How can I increase parent engagement?

A significant part of working together to improve attendance includes working closely with parents and carers. Gathering and analysing parent views can help you to identify potential barriers to pupil attendance and open discussions that can help to build effective relationships and assess the wellbeing of your pupils. 

This Parent Engagement Bundle may also be helpful for ideas of tangible actions you can take at different points in the school year to enhance parental engagement.


The journey towards improving attendance is a collective effort that requires dedication, understanding and a commitment to the wellbeing of every pupil. By working together, we can hope to break this absence trend and improve pupil attendance, carrying forward the knowledge that consistent attendance is not just a statistical metric but a key driver of success for our pupils and the entire learning community.

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