The power of attendance and stability at school for disadvantaged pupils

News release

Friday 2 June 2023

Secondary schools could make a significant difference to a disadvantaged pupil’s KS4 outcomes if they focused resources to improve attendance and ensure a smooth transfer between schools, according to new research published by the NFER today.

The report, Being Present: the Power of Attendance and Stability for Disadvantaged Pupils, looks at how pupil and cohort background factors link to the KS4 outcomes of disadvantaged pupils. It investigates the relationship between a broad range of pupil and school background factors and the KS4 outcomes achieved by disadvantaged pupils. It looks at both the significance and strength of each association, in order to understand the relative importance of each factor in explaining differences in KS4 outcomes.

The report also looks at the role of background characteristics in potentially explaining some of the progress gap between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers.

The research found that some of the main risk factors related to lower GCSE attainment among disadvantaged pupils were school attendance and moving school. As well as being more common among pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds, poor attendance and moving school had a particularly negative relationship with their attainment and progress.

The research is based on data supplied by DfE from the National Pupil Database for all mainstream secondary pupils who sat their KS4 exams in 2016.

Caroline Sharp, a research director at NFER, said: “One of NFER’s primary objectives is to provide evidence on how education affects social mobility, in order to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to progress and succeed. This analysis builds on our previous research to suggest that while there is no simple answer to narrowing the attainment gap, good attendance appears to be fundamental, especially for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

This report is the result of a research project carried out by Zoe Claymore as part of the NFER Educational Research Graduate programme to develop her skills and understanding of different datasets.