Truancy is a research-based measure from the Tell Them From Me surveys. It is a source of evidence linked to What works best and the School Excellence Framework.

What is it?

Truancy refers to unauthorised absences from school, indicating that a child has missed school without permission or appropriate reason.

The Tell Them From Me surveys ask students about how often during the past four weeks they have skipped classes or missed days at school without permission, or arrived late for school or classes. The results are reported as the percentage of students that regularly truant.

Why is it important?

Truancy is linked to disruptive behaviour, negative dispositions towards school, and poor outcomes later in life and is negatively associated with student performance. Improving attendance patterns in the early years of schooling is particularly important as students that have a pattern of nonattendance or truancy early in their school career are more likely to truant during the secondary school years. School attendance is also one of the best predictors of school completion.

School improvement links

School Excellence Framework element What works best theme
Learning culture High expectations

Evidence base

Baker, M. L., Sigmon, J. N., & Nugent M. E. (2001). Truancy reduction: Keeping students in school. Juvenile Justice Bulletin. Washington: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Henry, K. L. (2007). Who’s skipping school?: Characteristics of truants in 8th and 10th grade. Journal of School Health, 77, 29-35.

Rumberger, R.W. (1995). Dropping out of middle school: A multilevel analysis of students and schools. American Educational Research Journal, 32(3), 583–625.

United Nations (2008). Principles and recommendations for population and housing censuses, revision 2. New York: United Nations.

Willms, J. D. (2003). Student engagement at school: A sense of belonging and participation. Paris: OECD Publishing.

Willms, J. D. (2014) School Attendance. In A.C. Michalos (Ed.), Encyclopedia of quality of life research (pp. 5685-5687). Heidelberg: Springer Publishing.

Image: This explainer has been produced in collaboration with The Learning Bar

Explainers of the Tell Them From Me measures have been produced in collaboration with The Learning Bar. The Tell Them From Me measures are provided by, and remain the intellectual property of, The Learning Bar. The explainers can also be found online within the Tell Them From Me portal. Tell Them From Me and TTFM are trademarks of The Learning Bar.


  • Student engagement and wellbeing
  • Tell Them From Me

Business Unit:

  • Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation
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