Attendance awareness counts

Does school attendance affect results? It would be revealing to compare the attendance statistics of the 2010 top matric schools with those of the lowest-performing schools. A day absent from school is a learning opportunity lost forever.

Quality schools strive to get 100% attendance from everyone. They view teaching time as sacred.

Keep accurate records: Ensure that all the separate attendance registers for clerks/general assistants, educators and learners are accurate. Record the details daily. Clock-in and clock-out times also need to be recorded.

Punctuality is paramount. Keep records of late arrivals of learners and staff.

Make sure that, when absentees return to school, they submit supporting documentation, such as a sick note. 

Discuss the impact of absenteeism: Discuss absenteeism in the staffroom. The staff needs to be informed of the effects of absenteeism in a positively motivational manner. Those staff members not absent usually have to cover for their colleagues and teach extra lessons. This adds to the workload and possible stress for the teacher.

Learners need to understand how absenteeism can affect their achievements adversely both in the classroom and in extramural activities.

Give the statistics: Without mentioning names, give the staff the attendance statistics. As an example, the staff could be told how many teaching days were lost during the month. 

Look for absenteeism patterns: Study the attendance statistics. Is there an emerging trend that can be dealt with before it becomes a major issue?

Look for patterns. A common one found in a school was a spike in the number of teachers absent on a Monday. Inquiries revealed that many of these teachers were recovering from very ‘happy” weekends.

Identify “12-day sickness” teachers: In state schools, teachers are legally entitled to take 12 days’ sick leave each year in a three-year cycle. Certain teachers might take all the entitled leave every year. Discuss the matter with such teachers.

Counsel poor attendees: A poor attendee might need counselling. Discuss possible solutions. At one school there were teachers whose homes were at least 50km away. Yet they were desperate to keep their posts. Those teachers were boarded in homes near the school during the week. Staff attendance was outstanding.

Be supportive of legitimate personal problems: Be empathic around issues of absenteeism due to personal problems. A familiar example is the child or colleague needing ongoing medical treatment.

Acknowledge excellent attendance:
Not every school day is an amazing, awesome experience. Boredom happens. Those who persevere and always attend deserve public acknowledgement and praise.
Create a happy teaching and learning environment: Quality schools create environments that make learning and teaching enjoyable. Classrooms are bright and inviting. Gardens, grounds and sports facilities are in good condition. Teachers are fair and friendly; discipline is firm. Lessons are stimulating.

Make school a much happier choice than mooching around mindlessly at home.
Use teaching time to maximum benefit. Three simple daily routines are:

  • Start staff meetings promptly and end them promptly. Avoid the trap of letting early morning and break-time meetings run into teaching time.

  • Have a prompt start to the lesson at the end of breaks. Discourage leisurely learner and teacher strolls to classrooms.

  • Get learners to pack away their books a few minutes before the end of a lesson. They will be able to move on promptly to the next class.
  • With an attendance awareness campaign and straight-talking, your class and school can nudge even closer to recording 100% in the registers.

    Richard Hayward is a former school principal. He conducts leadership and management programmes under the aegis of the South African Quality Institute (SAQI), which offers workshops to schools across the country. Poor schools are sponsored. If you would like more details, please contact
    Vanessa du Toit 012-349-5006; [email protected] or Richard Hayward 011-888-3262; [email protected]



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