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5 Steps You Can Take Today to Reduce Absenteeism at Your School

Tiago Penteado

April 2, 2024

Absenteeism isn’t just about students missing out on lessons; it's about missing out on the community, the daily interactions, and the unique learning opportunities that each day brings. Addressing absenteeism effectively means getting to the root of why students are absent and creating an environment that makes them want to show up, not just physically, but also mentally and emotionally.

Recently, Orah hosted a conference focused on reducing absenteeism in Auckland, New Zealand. At the conference, we hosted a wellbeing expert. a local MP and school leaders from a variety of schools around the area to share their thoughts, ideas and strategies for tackling absenteeism. The follow steps are based on some of the most actionable takeaways from the event.

Here are five practical steps you can take today to start turning the tide on absenteeism in your school.

1. Personalise. Personalise. Personalise.

Yes, it's catchy. But it's also quite actionable when you understand that every student deserves a personalised approach when it comes to understanding and addressing why a student is not attending school (and this was coming from Peter Morton at Rangitoto College, which have over 3000 students). At Rangitoto College, they use Orah Nurture to identify at-risk students as one way to personalise their approach to understanding and supporting their students.

We know that the factors that go into reducing absenteeism are plentiful, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to reducing absenteeism. Here are some of the themes that were identified:

Addressing issues earlier, "before it's too late"

In the panel session, Geneé Crowley (Principal at Baverstock Oaks Schools) shared that their Attendance Advisors, after dealing with many students who have already disengaged with school, have made an effort to work with at-risk students "before it's too late". "They start missing a day, a fortnight, and it grows".

One strategy they tried was to sit the parents down and ask them "What do you hope for your child?" – it's important to help some parents understand that the school cares for their children, "we want them to improve their academic achievement, we want to improve their wellbeing" says Geneé.

Approach every situation with care

If a family knows that you, as a representative of the school, genuinely cares about their child, it goes a long way. Carl shared a poignant example of his own daughter's difficulty to want to attend school at times. Oftentimes the only way to understand that is to sit down with the family and, to Geneé's point above, ask them what they hope for their child. With the understanding that it can often be a difficult task to get a child to school. Care and understanding goes a long way.

2. Join the Reducing Absenteeism Group

The next step is recognising that you're not alone in this challenge. There’s a whole community of educators out there ready to share their strategies, insights, and support. By joining the Reducing Absenteeism Facebook Group, you can connect with other school leaders who are facing the same issues. This group is a treasure trove of ideas, from the latest research to real-life success stories. Whether you’re looking for innovative solutions or need advice on a particular challenge, this community is your go-to resource.

Join the Reducing Absenteeism Facebook Group to connect with other school leaders on this topic

3. Understand your own emotions and look after yourselves as educators

At the conference, Kim Tay's session on Being Emotionwise focused on Educator Wellbeing and understanding our own emotions, and how that relates to reducing absenteeism. Kim walked us through some complex neuroscientific concepts in easy-to-understand ways.

One model Kim shared (the Mood Meter) serves as a powerful resource for you to be able to express your own emotions clearly. It is also the foundational research that we use in our own Mood Check tool for students. We think taking the steps to understand the wide range of emotions we all experience paves the way for us to be able to service and educate our tamariki on the way to reducing absenteeism in our schools.

To get yourself acquainted with the concept of the Mood Meter to identify your emotions and how they impact your everyday life, Kim recommended a free app called How We Feel. This app is free to use as long as you are over 18. This is a great way to understand how the use of Orah Mood Check's could be beneficial for identifying at-risk students in your school, by using a similar tool for yourself first.

4. Improve Parent<>School Communication

Clear and consistent communication between parents and schools is foundational to reducing absenteeism. Here are three strategies you can implement right away to strengthen this critical connection:

  • Automate Messaging: Keep parents in the loop with automated messages if their child is late or absent without explanation. Immediate communication ensures that parents are promptly aware of any attendance issues.
  • Segment Communications: Use class and cohort groups to tailor your messages more specifically. This allows for more relevant and direct communication, ensuring that messages are not just sent but also read and acted upon.
  • Secure and Unify Communication Platforms: Replace disparate, less secure apps like WhatsApp with a dedicated, secure communication tool built for schools. Orah Connect offers these features and more, streamlining communication into one secure platform.

Ready to enhance your school’s communication strategy? Trial Orah Connect today and see the difference it makes in your attendance rates.

5. Educate Your Students and Parents About the Importance of Regular Attendance

Understanding and addressing the reasons behind chronic absenteeism requires a dual approach: direct engagement and education. Start by having open conversations with chronically absent students and their parents to understand their challenges and concerns.

Educating parents about the importance of regular attendance is just as crucial. Highlight the direct correlation between attendance and academic success, social development, and future opportunities. Share resources, success stories, and strategies through newsletters, workshops, and parent-teacher meetings.

Reducing absenteeism is easier said than done

By joining the Reducing Absenteeism group, you can gain insights into how other schools are successfully educating their communities and apply these learnings to your own school.

Tackling absenteeism is a community effort that involves educators, students, and parents. By joining forces, employing the right tools, and fostering open communication, we can create an educational environment where every student wants to be present. Start with these three steps today, and lay the groundwork for a more engaged, vibrant school community.

Get a personalised demo of Orah today to see how you could leverage Orah to reduce absenteeism at your school.


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Tiago Penteado

I’m from NZ, so I enjoy a good spot of rugby – more recently though, I've been into running as it's a tad kinder to the body. I write, cook & read to relax. At Orah, I'm very excited to contribute to a great mission making a meaningful difference in the lives of students and educators across the world.

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