Attendance Matters

22 September 2017

Author: Phil Brown

Research is key in establishing solid foundations on which to build. We need to stop looking for the ‘golden bullet’ in education and start formulating our decisions based on fact and well researched information.

We were recently challenged by our CEO (@LeadingLearner) to ask ourselves the question “what are the five main priorities for the SLT?”. What key things can you never take your eye off and should be at the core of every decision you make. Well one of these has to be attendance. If the students are not sat in class, how can they learn. Well that is just plain, old common sense!

So in the spirit of keeping at the top of our priorities I recently came across some research from Todd Rodgers and Avi Feller that focused on making some very simple changes to maximise impact when dealing with attendance.


The research show’s a clear improvement of up to 10% when a simple letter is used in the right way.

The research focuses primarily on the letter or should I say length of the letter. In order to have maximum impact on parents it is vital that they do not exceed  50 words in length. Any longer and you risk parents not reading it or parents with low literacy may not be able to understand it. The one thing that jumps out is the very coherent message that is being broadcast, ‘Attendance Matters’, ‘You can help’. It aims to build a strong working relationship between school, parent and child.

Attendance Matters

Todd Rogers and Avi Feller also use a clever horizontal bar chart to shatter some myths regarding attendance. This moves away from a traditional percentage score which is quite often misleading. After all,  85% in most walks of life is often viewed as very good. I know I would be quite happy to score that on any test. Its much better, clearer and simpler to relate the attendance to their peers and even better in the number of days/sessions missed. The above example present a very visual message that the child concerned is missing a significant amount of schooling when compared to actual students in their actual class.

At St. Mary’s we have setup four letters that get sent out a different triggers. Letter one is sent from our Pastoral Managers (none teaching) who look after the day to day needs of each of our Learning Houses, we have five houses in total in the secondary school. Letter two is sent from our Heads of House (who are also a HoD), the third letter is sent from the Senior Head of Learning House (Assistant Headteacher) and the final letter is from our Assistant Headteacher who has overarching control over attendance across the whole academy. Each letter builds upon the last sent and can lead to a variety of internal or external interventions taking place.

Any intervention used must have been through a robust control programme to ensure it has maximum impact for the desired cohort of students. We have decided to focus the use of the letters on the cohort that has a attendance percentage between 85-95%. As research further suggests that this cohort is the best to focus your time, funding and efforts.

Hopefully this blog will be food for thought and if this simple change can boost your overall attendance, then surely that is great news for the child and their family.

Blog Post PBR
Posted on 22 September 2017
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