95.5% (Attendance and my concerns!)

Being in charge of Pupil Premium funding/spending/attainment/provision and so on I have the fun task of working out what needs working on in my school with our students.

Like for some schools, attendance is an issue. Coming to school on time, each and every day is difficult for certain students. However, it is evidently more difficult for students who are labelled as Pupil Premium- or Premier Pupils as we refer to them in my school. And indeed students who have SEND.

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For the 2016-2017 PP budget, I recently allocated more funding to attendance and set our new, fantastic attendance manager some key questions…

In no particular order…

  • What are the main barriers for PP and/or SEND students in regards to attendance?
  • How will rewards work in improving attendance?
  • If you could ask for and have whatever you wanted, what would it be to improve attendance?
  • Have you been in touch/visited other schools who are like our school, who have improved attendance?
  • How can we make attendance more high profile in the classroom with teachers?
  • How can I as PP lead and SENCO help you with attendance?
  • How can SLT support the attendance drive?
  • What do you think is the biggest problem stopping attendance improving?

(I have written about attendance loosely here, talking about ways we can as teachers help students catch up…)

There was however, one question I asked him which related to this tweet I put out recently…

Has the grading system for attendance percentages made a difference?

Immediately, twitter being twitter people fired back many concerns, issues and queries with this model.

That is the exact reason why I tweeted it out. For people to point out elements that I may have missed, not thought of, or disagree with. I am grateful for the support and challenge that is offered to me. Especially when done constructively.

So what exactly is this grading system?

We all know and will accept that if a student achieves anything like 90% in an examination, controlled assessment, ISA, or test all parties involved; students, teacher, parents/carers will be elated. They will be over the moon that such a prestigious grade has been achieved. After all, even in universities the grading systems determines anything above 70% as being the ‘top level’.

Screen Shot 2016-06-29 at 18.23.58.png

(OU= Open University- Source Ref.)

So my thinking behind putting percentages of attendance into equivalent grades is around the idea that students do not, or can not, or have not fully appreciated what attendance percentages really mean.

If we apply the same principle of scores or grades then 90% attendance would be a really exceptional figure. However, in attendance terms, that is like 1 day being missed every fortnight. Not a great figure at all!

Therefore, I designed these grade equivalents to apply the universal principle of grading alongside attendance figures. A child can essentially, clearly see, they are on a grade C for attendance, because their attendance is the minimum expectation; 96%.

I have also asked for percentages to be rounded up/down and not be presented as a number that is difficult to determine, for example, Mr. Ali’s attendance is currently 92.38%!!

The aim/objective/intention for this change/idea is for students to be able to establish what the attendance figures actually mean and that, for example, 84% is not a good figure and must be improved. A grade U.


Some exceptions/provisos/considerations:

  • If a student has a diagnosed medical condition then their attendance grade is recalculated as to avoid them being singled out for being ill, or physically disabled. If they have doctors/dentist appointments, although authorised their attendance figures go down as normal
  • All students on alternative timetables will have this considered too
  • These grades are not intertwined with the theory/idea that having higher attendance ensures you achieve higher grades. I have read research that suggests attendance can be linked to higher attainment, but also that a break in attending can boost attainment!
  • The grades are shared at an individual level, and shared more collectively in attendance charts either via tutor groups or year areas. Somebody suggested that having grades can conflate the problem, and maybe Pie Charts can work just as well. For me by having the grades, also ensures there is a high expectation model to the students
  • Students who are anxious, on Part Time/reintegration programmes and so on, need to be considered when presenting attendance grades
  • This is a pilot project to ascertain whether it is worth investing more time and effort


Next steps:

  • Carry out some student voice and ascertain whether these grades have made attendance clearer
  • Determine whether an improvement in attendance is due to or supported by this drive
  • Add a page in the planner for students to add their attendance grade
  • Communicate this with parents and add attendance grades to assessment point data that is sent home
  • Design a programme/spreadsheet which clearly highlights/makes factual with the remaining days left, how many can be missed to ensure their mimimum attendance grade is achieved

Let me know your thoughts?



  1. “The grades are shared at an individual level, and shared more collectively in attendance charts either via tutor groups or year areas.” I think this might be the key to this intervention. A few studies (none with consistent results) indicate that a mentor program of sorts is the key to helping with attendance issues for students with Social emotional needs. I think for a general school intervention the grades for attendance is good but for students who don’t really care about grades or have other concerns a mentor or check-in/check-out system of sort might be the best route. I helped design a freshman mentor and rewards program a few years back that had quarterly reward days- the students had games, food, prizes, etc… but only those students who met certain grades and attendance standards. Maybe linking the grades to goals and outcomes would be beneficial?

  2. I think this is great. Our district raised our attendance rate by 1.5 % (92 to 93.5%) because staff and administration made more contacts/emails/phone calls when a kid was not in attendance. Good luck! Keep us posted throughout the year if it is working.

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