Attendance rewards frequently penalise students the scheme was designed to help – Here’s how to get them in school

The correlation between high school attendance and academic achievement is clearly evidenced. In simple terms, if we can get our students into school then they are more likely to achieve; it’s certainly not rocket science. Teachwire reports.

However, across the country many schools are turning into battlegrounds as school leaders continually fight to improve attendance.

The most obvious route to improved school attendance – and the one to which most schools immediately turn – is that of reward schemes.

The incentives vary from school to school, but can include trips, vouchers for local shops and entertainment centres, and even entry into raffles for iPads and other enticing gadgets. Such prizes can certainly create a buzz, and may well encourage some students to attend school more regularly – however, their use is not without problems.

For example, most of these schemes work on a long-term basis – counting attendance across a term, or even an entire academic year.

One school I recently visited had purchased a top of the range smartphone which was to be the centrepiece of their rewards scheme. It had been agreed that each student who had a 100% attendance record throughout the year would be entered into a draw to win the phone.

But within the first couple of weeks of term, many of them – and particularly those with a history of poor attendance; in other words, the very young people the scheme was designed to support – had already missed a session, and thus were out of the game, once and for all.

In my experience, schools that are demonstrating the most success in terms of improving attendance share some or all of the following features:

1. Tutors are central to promoting and securing positive attendance

The tutor’s role as the first point of contact is critical. Those 15 or so minutes of tutor time each day have the potential to be extremely valuable. A positive relationship between the tutor and student, and the tutor and students’ parents, can often prevent absence.

3. Good attendance is continually rewarded

The most effective rewards programmes I have seen work on multiple levels. Yes, they may include end of year reward trips – but they are not solely reliant upon them. Successful schools also offer ongoing rewards and incentives, ensuring there is always something tangible that students can aim for.

Read more features on how to keep your pupils in school Attendance rewards frequently penalise students the scheme was designed to help – Here’s how to get them in school

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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