Best Practice

Tackling the links between attendance and poverty

What are the links between poverty and the attendance crisis in secondary schools and what best practice approaches can we employ to address these issues and support students? Sean Harris takes a look
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Official figures show that one-fifth of students (20.3%) were persistently absent from primary or secondary school during the autumn term 2023. These figures compare with an overall persistent absence rate of 12.7% before the pandemic.


Poverty and school absence

While poverty and disadvantage will not be a reality for every student facing attendance issues, it will be a genuine issue for many of these families. We know that social and economic upheaval since the pandemic has resulted in many more families struggling financially (Fitzpatrick et al, 2023; Lucas et al 2023). 

And the data indicates that there are links to be made between poverty, disadvantage, and poor school attendance. The attendance figures cited above are even worse for students on free schools meals (FSMs) with one third (33%) being persistently absent during autumn term (primary and secondary). This compares to 15.7% of non-FSM students.

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