Excellence in attendance for every student

Your school, in partnership with parents and carers, is responsible for promoting the regular attendance of students.

Image: 'Every day counts' when it comes to attendance

‘Every day counts’ when it comes to attendance. The negative correlation between absence from school and achievement is cumulative and can affect academic outcomes in future years of schooling. There is no ‘safe’ threshold for absences. Hancock et al., 2013 in Spotlight: Attendance matters (AITSL, 2019).

Policy and context

The importance of regular attendance is reflected in the department’s priorities, policies and frameworks, and in your school’s system-negotiated targets.

Attendance is a complex issue which is closely connected with learning and student wellbeing. Approaches to improving student attendance are most effective when they are informed by the needs of your students, their families and your community.

Your school, in partnership with parents and carers, is responsible for promoting the regular attendance of students. The School Attendance Policy sets out the requirements for the attendance of students in NSW government schools.

Schools that demonstrate excellence in sustainably improving student attendance apply a whole-school approach which involves:

  • effective leadership and a positive school climate
  • an engaging curriculum and effective pedagogy
  • positive and productive school-student-family connections and sense of cultural safety.

A school with an excellent learning culture recognises that maintaining an attendance roll is a legal requirement and additional strategies are implemented to support student attendance and engagement in learning.

Excellence in attendance is a theme of the School Excellence Framework (SEF) where: 'Teachers, parents and the community work together to support consistent and systematic processes that ensure student absences do not impact on learning outcomes.'

Understanding student attendance

Non-attendance can be prevented from escalating if interventions begin early. Your school should work together with parents and students to address attendance concerns and promote positive attendance.

Successful school attendance strategies require an understanding of the underlying factors contributing to attendance. Through a process of situational analysis and strategic planning, your school can improve student attendance outcomes.

The Attendance matters - resources for schools brings together a range of resources, including access to live attendance data, evidence-based practice and guided journeys, and provides a 5 step planning process to improve school attendance.

  • Discover
  • Define
  • Decide
  • Develop
  • Deliver.
Image: The 5 step planning process for attendance

Use the resources to inform the action you will take, and the approach you will adopt, as part of your Strategic Improvement Plan.

Know your students, parents and carers, and school community

Knowing your students, your parents and carers, and engaging with your community are key leadership responsibilities and are important for supporting your students facing attendance challenges. Improving student outcomes in attendance requires knowledge of the complexity of each student’s needs.

Image: Many factors affect attendance

Factors affecting attendance are multi-faceted and vary across school communities.

These factors may be related to the individual student, their parents or family, their school or community. Understanding the complex interactions between these factors is fundamental to optimising outcomes for every student.

Students you have identified for improvement in attendance may also:

  • be from a low socio-economic background
  • identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
  • have a disability or additional learning needs
  • have a refugee background
  • be from a diverse cultural or linguistic background
  • be from a rural and remote area
  • be at risk
  • have high potential, be gifted or highly gifted in intellectual, creative, social-emotional or physical domains.

Knowing your students, parents, carers and school community is essential for effectively resourcing your Strategic Improvement Plan.

Key research

Spotlight: attendance matters (AITSL, 2019) states:

‘Teacher quality is the single most important in-school factor influencing student achievement (Hattie, 2009). However, the relationship between teacher quality and student achievement is mediated by the amount of time students spend in the classroom. Irrespective of the reasons for absences, non-attendance affects student outcomes.’

According to What works best: 2020 (CESE), school leaders and teachers should focus on 8 themes that improve student learning outcomes. One of these themes, ‘high expectations’ has been found to be connected to:

  • positive behaviour and improved motivation
  • enhanced self-esteem and higher levels of attendance
  • academic success and improved rates of school completion.
See the following key research on student attendance.

Learn more

Find out more about School Excellence in Action.


  • Teaching and learning


  • Compliance and audit
  • Educational accountability
  • Health, safety and wellbeing
  • Leadership and management
  • Reporting and performance
  • Rolls and attendance
  • School Excellence Framework
  • Teaching

Business Unit:

  • School Performance – South
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