A Study of School Absenteeism

Why do some children have an especially high absenteeism from school? The School Absenteeism Project has analysed which risk factors that course absence from school among pupils from kinder garden to 9th grade. The results provide a good starting point for developing and focusing future interventions towards the right children to prevent absenteeism from school.

Time period:

2013 – 2015.

Target group:

Pupils in kinder garden-9th grade.

Number of participants:

Five public schools in Aarhus, equalling 2.473 pupils in total.

Research:

The researchers behind the project have used questionnaire survey data, absenteeism data from registers in Aarhus Municipality and register data from Statistics Denmark to investigate risk factors for school absenteeism.

The questionnaire surveys are carried out among respectively pupils, parents and class teachers at the individual schools. The pupils have used an iPad or a laptop to fill in a form, asking about the children’s well-being, spare time, upbringing, pains and anxieties as well as their own judgements about reasons for school absenteeism. Pupils in kinder garden and 1st grade have been excepted from this. The class teachers have answered questions about partly each pupil, including questions about the pupil’s mental well-being, cooperation with his/hers parents and the parents’ general involvement and partly about the overall well-being in class and how the teacher handles school absenteeism. One parent to each child has answered an online questionnaire about their child’s mental well-being, cooperation with the teacher, parents’ involvement, upbringing, the child’s health and anxiety symptoms as well as their judgement of reasons for school absenteeism.

Absenteeism data are collected from Aarhus Municipality, which each month receives a rapport from the schools about the pupils’ daily absenteeism. The data contain information about, whether the absenteeism was legal (as a consequence of illness or else) or illegal.

Finally, the researchers involve register data about the parents’ socioeconomic status, family circumstances and illness.    

Partners:

Aarhus Municipality and KORA (The Danish Institute for Local and Regional Government Research).     

Results:

The absenteeism percent for all pupils in the five schools is in average 5 % of the total amount of school days. From each five days of absenteeism three are used as legal absenteeism because of illness, one is used as legal absenteeism because of other reasons while one day – in average among all the pupils – is used as illegal absenteeism.

High school absenteeism is mostly seen among children, who have a low well-being and come from homes with a poor cooperation with school. These two were the most dominating possible reasons out of many, which were investigated.

Preliminary analyses show that among pupils with especially problematic absenteeism from school – meaning pupils who are absent more than 10 % of school hours – are a range of specific characteristics. The children often have divorced parents, are pupils in the lower secondary school, have a lower academic level, attend more often special classes, have a lower well-being and have more frequently contact to the Educational Psychological Counselling in the municipality. Likewise, overweight children have a higher propensity to school absenteeism. More have emotional problems or a problematic behaviour, have a chronic disease and have, to a greater extent, a social phobia (according to the parents’ reporting). Finally, the parents’ cooperation with the teacher is typically lower.

On the basis of the school absenteeism project a course of therapy treatment for children with alarmingly high school absenteeism has been developed. This is being effect evaluated by professor Mikael Thastum in collaboration with TrygFonden’s Centre of Child Research in 2016-2020.    

Project group

Mikael Thastum

Professor
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