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Overview

Attendance issues are often a first sign that a student is experiencing life challenges.

School authorities, students, and families share responsibility for ensuring that students attend school. By working together alongside available community agencies and supports, they can identify and address the underlying reasons for absenteeism.

Alberta Education's Office of Student Attendance and Re-engagement (OSAR) provides leadership and support to school authorities to address chronic absenteeism.

The OSAR also:

  • encourages schools to focus on finding solutions while considering the unique circumstances of each student and their family
  • promotes the use of strategies to support and encourage all students to attend school regularly
  • helps school authorities identify other strategies for students who have similar needs or to assist with the unique needs of one student and their family

When all reasonable efforts have been made by the school authority and student attendance has not improved, the OSAR helps school authorities access the Attendance Board.

The Every Student Counts: Keeping Kids in School Report provides school leaders with information on keeping students engaged and attending school.

Improving attendance

Most absenteeism can be prevented or resolved using strategies that encourage all students to attend school regularly and remove barriers to regular attendance.

Attendance at school is more than being physically present. It is about being fully engaged in learning.

Engaged students:

  • enjoy going to school
  • have positive feelings about the future
  • have a greater sense of belonging to their school, which leads to increased learning

To keep students in school and regularly attending, children and youth need the following supports:

  • emotional
  • intellectual
  • physical
  • social

Schools, parents or guardians, and students share responsibility for attendance and involvement in learning. The people closest to the student can:

  • best identify strengths and needs
  • understand the local context
  • access local resources to help the student

Attendance strategies

Schools can use the following 5 strategies to help ensure that students are engaged in learning and regularly attending school.

These strategies also assist schools to identify an attendance issue and provide a starting point for intervention.

Tracking progress

Early identification of a school attendance issue is possible with detailed attendance monitoring. As part of this strategy, it is important for school administrators and staff to have a good understanding and a clear process to analyze district, school, classroom and individual student attendance patterns.

With this information, students at risk of chronic absenteeism can be identified and informed decisions can be made to intervene early. Early intervention has the greatest positive impact for the student.

Student engagement

Creating a school culture that engages students and increases attendance includes addressing the following types of engagement:

  • social (participation in school life)
  • academic (participation in the requirements for school success)
  • intellectual engagement (psychological and cognitive investment in learning)

For each type of engagement, there are proactive strategies and interventions that can support regular attendance.

Successful transitions

Transitions occur any time in a person's life that involve change, including:

  • routines
  • relationships
  • expectations
  • roles

Transitions occur throughout the life cycle, including during the school year. In order for transitions to be successful, they must be carefully and deliberately planned and supported.

Students with attendance problems may face a variety of challenges as they make transitions into new settings, including from:

  • grade to grade
  • school to work
  • school to further education

Students may also face significant transitions in their home life, such as:

  • family structure changes
  • a death in the family
  • moving homes

The chance that a transition will be positive is significantly increased when schools work together with students, their parents/caregivers, employers, community agencies and post-secondary institutions to develop transition strategies.

Collaborative partnerships

Providing access to a variety of activities and services in a welcoming, caring, respectful and safe learning environment helps students do better in all aspects of their life.

Through shared leadership and working together with community partners, students and their families will have access to supports necessary to ensure success for all.

Determining the reason for absenteeism is essential for identifying barriers to attendance, including:

  • food
  • shelter
  • mental/physical health
  • transportation or other challenges

Identifying these barriers to attendance provide schools, community partners and families with a voice and a choice in creating a plan to address the barriers and increase attendance.

Positive connections

For students to experience success, positive connections must be created and maintained between the school staff, the student and their family. Each and every student needs a connection with an adult who can provide them with unconditional support.

For students at risk of chronic absenteeism, assistance from specialized personnel provides support the student needs to attend school and re-engage in learning. Specialized personnel could include those involved in:

  • mentorship programs
  • career counselling
  • school liaison work
  • student engagement projects
  • resource offices or community agencies

Additional supports

When strategies for all students are not enough to make a difference and improve attendance, a different type of strategy may be needed to support a student and their family.

Targeted strategies

A targeted strategy or support is useful when a group of students have a similar need.

For example, if a number of students are not attending school because they do not have winter clothing, a school may choose to hold a clothing swap to increase access to warm winter clothing. In this way, the supports are targeted to a need that has been identified in the school community.

When implementing strategies for all students, schools or school authority staff may notice trends that suggest a different type of support is needed for a group of students.

Other examples of targeted supports may include:

  • school-based interventions including instructional strategies and supports
  • mentoring programs
  • after school and homework clubs
  • participation in school clubs and activities
  • attendance incentives

Individualized support

Sometimes a more individualized approach is needed to assist a student to improve their attendance. Individualized strategies or supports are tailored to the circumstances of a student and their family and may include things like:

  • counselling support
  • family support
  • home visits
  • identifying a team to support the student and their family
  • adjusting the learning environment (for example: online, home-based, self-directed, outreach school)
  • community conferences
  • referral and partnering with community agencies

Community conferences

A community conference provides a place for all parties involved in a student's success to meet. Participants in a community conference work together to seek solutions to support a student to attend school and re-engage in learning.

Participants in a community conference may include:

  • the student and their family
  • family supports (extended family, friends and community support agencies)
  • school staff and their supporting resources (for example: social work, psychology, family school liaison worker)
  • the community conference facilitator (a specially trained person)

At the community conference:

  • the student and family have an opportunity to speak about their situation
  • school authority staff explain how they have been affected by a student's absence from school

Through these conversations, all parties gain an understanding of the barriers that are keeping the student from regularly attending school.

The outcome of a community conference is a written agreement that includes actions and assigns responsibility to all those who have a part to play in supporting the student to improve attendance.

Schools and school authorities interested in a community conference may contact the Office of Student Attendance and Re-engagement (OSAR) for information, access to a trained community conference facilitator and/or facilitator training for school authority staff.

Attendance toolkit

The attendance toolkit includes information, resources and outreach material for school leaders, students and parents to promote attendance and create strategies that assist with non-attendance issues.

Informational resources

Parent Fact Sheet and School Reference Guide

School PowerPoint Presentation (PPT, 602 KB)

Print materials

Elementary School Poster (PDF, 8.1 MB)

Junior High School Poster (PDF, 17.1 MB)

High School Poster (PDF, 7.7 MB)

Postcard (PDF, 4.6 MB)

Contact

To connect with the Office of Student Attendance and Re-engagement:

Phone: 780-644-2980
Email: edc.osar@gov.ab.ca