Government school student attendance 2019

This bulletin was originally published 14 August 2020.

Image: 2019 student attendance bulletin

Overview

Student attendance has been demonstrated to be linked to student academic outcomes, although the nature of the link is complex. CESE’s Government School Student Attendance 2019 bulletin summarises attendance rates by:

  • student level of education
  • Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students
  • distribution of student attendance
  • scholastic year
  • proportion of students attending 90% or more of the time
  • reasons for absence.

Main findings

CESE’s analysis of Semester 1 2019 attendance data indicates that the average attendance rate for NSW government schools was 90.8 per cent, but varied widely across a number of contextual factors.

  • attendance rates fell slightly in 2019
  • attendance rates are lower in secondary grades than in primary grades
  • attendance is lowest on Fridays
  • 72.6% of students attended 90% or more of the time, 25.8% attended 98% or more
  • days lost through approved leave accounted for the highest proportion of explained.

Attendance rate and student level of education

Between 2015 and 2019, the average attendance rate in NSW government schools has varied between 92.2% and 90.8%. In 2018, attendance rates decreased to 91.4% with the introduction of national standards and then in 2019 decreased further to 90.8%.

Between 2015 and 2017 the attendance rates for primary students remained constant at 93.9%. However in 2018 attendance rates fell to 93.3% and declined further to 92.7% in 2019. From 2015 to 2017 the attendance rates for secondary students remained constant at 89.5%. In 2018 attendance rates fell to 88.2% with the introduction of national standards. In 2019 attendance rates for secondary students averaged 87.8%.

Attendance rate and Aboriginal students

The average attendance rate for Aboriginal students was 83.8% in 2019, 0.6 percentage points lower than in 2018, while the attendance rate for non-Aboriginal students decreased by 0.5 percentage points in the last year (from 91.9% to 91.4%). Aboriginal primary students’ attendance rate decreased by 0.6 percentage points from 89% in 2018 to 88.4% in 2019, similar to the 0.5 percentage point fall for non-Aboriginal students. In 2019, the attendance rate for Aboriginal secondary students decreased by 0.7 percentage points to 76.6%, 11.8 percentage points lower than primary Aboriginal students. This is the largest gap recorded in the last decade between primary and secondary Aboriginal students’ attendance rates.

Attendance rates are much lower in secondary years for Aboriginal students than for non-Aboriginal students. The gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students’ attendance was more than twice as large as in primary years, and increased from 11.9 percentage points in 2018 to 12.2 percentage points in 2019.

Distribution of student attendance

In 2019, 72.6% of all students attended at least 90% of the time. This decreased by 0.8 percentage points from 73.4% of all students in 2018 and is consistent with the decrease in attendance rates. Although the publicly reported attendance level is 90% or more, many students have close to perfect attendance. 25.8% of all students attended 98% or more of the time and 72.6% of all students attended at least 90% of the time. By comparison only 13.8% of Aboriginal students attended 98% of the time and 51.7% of Aboriginal students attended at least 90% of the time.

Distribution of student attendance by scholastic year

In 2019, the highest student attendance in each scholastic year was between 90% and 98%, except for Year 10. For Year 10 there were more students attending under 90% of the time.

From Year 7 the proportion of students attending less than 90% overtakes the proportion of students with attendance of 98% or more. Over 40% of Year 10 students attended school less than 90% of the time and only one in five Year 10 students attended at least 98%. The average attendance rate for Year 10 students was 85.5%, lower than any other year group. For Aboriginal students, the proportion of students attending less than 90% is higher than the proportion of students with attendance of 98% or more from Kindergarten onwards. From Year 7 there are more Aboriginal students attending less than 90% than attending between 90% and 98% of the time. By Year 10 over two thirds of Aboriginal students were attending less than 90% of the time.

Students attending 90% of the time by remoteness, SEA quartile and Aboriginality

In Semester 1 2019, 799,843 students were enrolled in NSW government schools, with 72.6% of these students attending school for 90% or more of the time. Of the 64,252 Aboriginal students enrolled, just over half (51.7%) attended school for 90% or more of the time in Semester 1.

SEA is calculated by CESE as part of the Family Occupation and Education Index analysis. In NSW government schools, 190,962 students were in SEA quartile 1, with 58.3% of these students attending school for 90% or more of the time. Over half of Aboriginal students enrolled in Semester 1 2019 were in SEA quartile 1 (37,101 students). Almost 46% of this cohort attended school 90% or more of the time. Only a small number of students (3,678 students, 0.5%) were enrolled at schools in remote/very remote areas of NSW. 49% of this cohort attended at least 90% of the time, which is similar to the results for Aboriginal students across all NSW government schools. The lowest proportion was for Aboriginal students in SEA quartile 1 in remote/very remote areas. Only 34.6% of these students attended school at least 90% of the time.

Reasons for absence

Almost half (45%) of the whole day absences were unjustified / unexplained and the majority of justified absences were due to sickness (64%). 62% of absences for Aboriginal students were unjustified / unexplained and the majority of justified absences were also due to sickness (58%). Only 5% of justified absences were due to suspensions, which equates to 2.9% of all absences. However 16% of justified absences for Aboriginal students were due to suspensions, which was 6.3% of all absences.

Implications for educators

Recording and monitoring student attendance allows educators to identify students who have low attendance, and are at risk of falling behind. Tracking student attendance is also a legislative requirement and part of every school’s duty of care. Attendance data is important because it provides a measure of students’ engagement – which is critical for evaluating school and student performance.

For more information

To access data on NSW government school student attendance, visit the NSW Education Data Hub.
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