How to deal with truancy in schools
Truancy is an enduring problem for many schools, often causing a great deal of stress for families and staff alike. Ultimately, it’s the students themselves that suffer the most – but given their legal and professional responsibilities for children, the impact on parents and teachers is huge. In this article, we’ll explore the causes and effects of truancy in the current climate, look at how to deal with truancy, and learn how educational software plays a key role in its prevention.
What are the main causes of truancy?
In today’s modern world, there are more stresses and demands on students than ever before – which is undoubtedly contributing to the causes of truancy. Social media, a rise in mental health issues and the cost-of-living crisis are all likely to have an impact here, so schools need to be understanding of current challenges and how they may lead to student absences. The most common factors include:
- Bullying: if bullying goes unrecognised and unchallenged, students will not feel safe at school so are more likely to truant. This can be more common for students of various minorities (such as sexual orientation or gender identity), and while attitudes are rapidly changing, increased visibility may also lead to an increase in bullying. The impact of social media should also be taken into account here, and bullying may not be confined to the time the student spends at school.
- Mental Health: current NHS statistics indicate that in 2022, 18% of 7-to-16 year olds had a probable mental health condition – a figure that’s remained consistent since 2020. This will have an undeniable effect on truancy, as young people are more likely to skip school in an attempt to deal with these often undiagnosed or untreated issues.
- Educational needs and difficulties: if a pupil is struggling academically, or doesn’t feel stimulated or challenged by their teaching, this can also lead to truancy.
- Peer pressure: a consistent factor, many students will often be convinced to miss school by particular members of their social circle. This is a significant contributor to internal truancy (where pupils remain on site but don’t attend lessons), which many teachers are reporting a rise in.
- Issues with parenting or their personal life: there are a number of factors at play here, ranging from parental disengagement with education and family health to more extreme issues such as abuse, neglect, drug and/or alcohol use. The cost-of-living crisis is also a consideration here, as some students could be forced into truancy due to issues surrounding the family income.
A common theme in many of these causes of truancy is that children are facing challenges and don’t have a solution – so choose to skip school altogether rather than face the problem head on. The exception to this is problems with parenting, and while there are often socio-economic links to truancy, it’s important to remember that this isn’t always the case. In 2016, Bath and North East Somerset recorded one of the highest levels of truancy in the UK – despite being one of England’s wealthiest local authorities in terms of deprivation.
What are the effects of truancy?
It’s important not to underestimate the effects of truancy, both on students’ immediate education and their long-term development. Obviously, missing lessons causes disengagement with learning and limits academic achievement. But beyond this, there are clear associations between truancy and a student’s future success. Persistent absenteeism has been linked to social issues such as criminal activity, teenage pregnancy and inclinations towards smoking and drug use – as well as unemployment and social isolation. As well as affecting this individual, this has long-term implications for wider society – so it’s an issue that needs to be dealt with effectively.
How to prevent truancy before it happens
Handling truancy is a two-pronged approach, starting with preventative measures schools can take. These include:
- Defining a clear attendance policy: communicating the importance of attendance to students – and highlighting the legal and personal implications of truancy for students and families. This could also incorporate attendance incentives and rewards if this is something students are receptive to.
- Creating a positive school culture: this goes without saying, but nurturing a welcoming, engaging environment where students feel safe and ready to learn is key to preventing truancy. This includes a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, which is one of the common causes.
- Making attendance easy to track: an online attendance tracking system allows teachers and senior leadership teams to pinpoint consecutive absences and establish whether absences are authorised, allowing for easier identification of truants.
How to deal with truancy when it happens
Even with preventative measures in place, truancy will always happen. When it does, schools can take actions such as:
- Early intervention: as soon as a student is identified as a cause for concern, escalate the issue, meet with parents and create an attendance plan. By getting to the root cause early on, the problem will be much easier to reverse.
- New initiatives: some cases of truancy can be resolved with schemes within school, such as organising pick-up and drop-off services, breakfast clubs or spare uniform and stationery supplies.
- Additional support: many cases of absenteeism will be related to sensitive issues, so it’s important to draw on third party expertise where necessary to make sure the student is getting the help they need. This could include specialists in teenage mental health, or organisations dedicated to home issues that are impacting their attendance.
Even with this in mind, all student absences are different – so it’s always important to find the root cause then look at how best to combat this.
Combatting truancy with Weduc Software
As we’ve seen, tracking student attendance is key in preventing truancy – and this is where Weduc can help. The attendance tracking software moves registers online, allowing staff to quickly pinpoint absences, spot patterns or irregularities in attendance, and easily communicate with parents when this occurs. Armed with this information and capability, schools are in a much stronger position to identify the issues leading to truancy and nip it in the bud where possible.
There’s no one solution to dealing with truancy, and it’s an issue so many schools have to deal with on a regular basis. However, prevention will always begin with one vital step: the effective, electronic tracking of attendance.
Get in touch with the team at Weduc to find out how our software can help your school.