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Student Attendance: through the lens of creativity and holistic development

March 6th

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News update

Student Attendance: through the lens of creativity and holistic development

In today’s educational landscape, the challenge of absenteeism is becoming increasingly prevalent, affecting not only academic achievement but also the overall well being of students.

In a recent article by The Guardian, it was revealed that in 2023, 140,000 children in England were classed as “severely absent” from school—a 134% increase since before the pandemic.

As educators grapple with the complexities of student absenteeism, fresh approaches continue to be explored by a range of educational innovators that not only address this issue from the school’s perspective, but also prioritise the holistic development and well being of students. Creative education practices that foster student engagement, emotional resilience, and a sense of belonging in the classroom can contribute to a student’s ‘want’ to attend school.

The Not Fine in School campaign, alongside a recent report by the Children’s Commissioner, suggest that children aren’t absent from school because they don’t want to learn, rather they find themselves without the support they need. Instead, many environments lean on rewards for attendance, parental fines for absences and little flexibility for children with neurodiversity, special needs and those who have experienced trauma, whether at home or in school. Measures that whilst aiming to address the issue are more likely to have contributed to the surge in home education uk (as reported by the Department for Education) as well as increasing levels of absenteeism.

Creative education practices often have a relational foundation, where teacher and student well being are both important to cultivate a nurturing and supportive environment.  This approach can encourage active participation as well as regular attendance.

Here are a selection of strategies that some teachers are incorporating into their classroom practice to address student absenteeism:

  1. Cultivate: Prioritise the well being of both yourself and your students by incorporating breathing, mindfulness, self-care, and reflection into the class’s daily routine. Creating space for co-regulation can promote emotional resilience and foster a sense of community. Focusing on developing a harmonious relationship between thinking, feeling and action when approaching difficult topics can help your students feel that it’s safe and beneficial to learn in this way.
  2. Foster: Engage students in building a positive and supportive learning environment. Simple gestures such as personalised greetings, acknowledging emotions, and implementing mentoring and support systems within the classroom can significantly impact student engagement and attendance. Systems such as absent buddy support, wherein students are paired together to help each other catch up whenever one of them is absent can encourage students to co-support as well as self-support.
  3. Advocate: Identify and address the barriers that may be contributing to student absenteeism, such as unmet special educational needs, trauma, or excessive academic pressure. Whilst the wider environment of support and resource for such needs is often limited, the very act of championing for students is the beginning of a journey of acknowledgement and inclusion.

A holistic approach to learning, focusing on the integration of physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual development can not only help to cultivate a deeper sense of joy, curiosity, and connection within classrooms, it can help support wider work to address the issue of student absenteeism.

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