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Attendance lifts achievement: Building the evidence base to improve student outcomes

Secondary education Educational evaluation Education Low socioeconomic status Students Academic performance Disadvantaged students Australia
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apo-nid137906.pdf 5.85 MB

This publication presents analyses of data collected from a large number of disadvantaged students, all of whom are being supported through The Smith Family’s long-term educational scholarship program, Learning for Life. Analysis of demographic, administrative, program participation and educational outcomes data over time of students on this program, is providing new insights on better targeting of educational support for highly disadvantaged young people. These insights are informing the ongoing refinement of the Learning for Life program. However, the value of this research goes well beyond this specific program to include broader educational policy and programmatic efforts aimed at improving Australia’s educational performance.

Key learnings:

There is new evidence showing that school attendance and achievement are closely related.

On average, a low achievement grade in English predicts low or decreasing school attendance in the years following. Similarly, lower attendance rates predict lower achievement grades in English in later years.

Being able to identify students at greater risk of declining attendance or poor achievement allows us to provide them with targeted and timely additional support to help prevent this decline.

School attendance and achievement help identify students at risk of leaving school early.

A strong relationship between school attendance, including in the early years of high school, and Year 12 completion, has been established. Three in four students with high attendance rates in Year 7 went on to complete Year 12, compared to less than half of those with low attendance rates.  

Similarly, a strong relationship has been established between achievement in English in Year 9 and school completion. Students who achieved a satisfactory of better grade in English in Year 9, were much more likely to complete Year 12 than those whose achievement was below satisfactory.

If we act on early indicators, additional support can result in improvements in attendance and achievement. This then increases the likelihood of students completing school and being in work or study post-school.

Analysis indicates that low attendance (and low achievement) is recoverable and that early identification provides a real opportunity for targeted additional support to bring students back on track.

Students with very low attendance rates in Year 7 who improved their attendance by Year 9, were much more likely to complete Year 12, compared to those whose attendance remained very low.

Attendance and achievement during high school predicts Year 12 completion and also predicts post-school outcomes.

Students with high achievement grades are more likely to be fully engaged in paid work and/or study post school. Similarly, a positive relationship between post-school engagement in work and/or study and high levels of school attendance has been identified.

The risk of not being in work or study post-school was found to be twice as high for students with low attendance rates during high school, compared to those with high attendance rates.

A focus on ensuring strong school attendance across all years of school can therefore contribute to both school completion and post-school engagement in work or study.

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