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Our Approach

#389 Poor Attendance/Behaviour of SEN (Specific) Students, Including Truancy From Lessons – Harwich & Dovercourt High School

Mrs L Nicholls and Miss H Chambers

What did we do?

We hoped to improve the attendance of a targeted group of students, in identified lessons, to increase engagement in a classroom environment.

The approach was to identify 6 students with attendance lower than 90%. We identified the lessons in a 4 week period where these students truanted and worked out on how many occasions they truanted.

These students became part of a project and we referred to the students as “keep them in”. The lessons that students identified as being red, we made bespoke arrangements to include some vocational learning and also interventions, including social skills, team building, I.T skills, along with extra sport, some gardening and time in our salon.

Where we were unable to put interventions in place due to the spectrum of classes these individuals are in (therefore red lessons being at different times). We sat them down, discussed the project with them and had the use of engagement tools (that they could choose from). Therefore for the red lessons they would attend, as we know that being in the class is the conducive place to take in information and learn even when they are not paying particular attention. The engagement tools ranged from Word searches to rubiks cubes. In the red lessons the students were not obliged to take part in the learning as long as they were attending and in class they could sit quietly, not disrupting the learning of others and play/interact with the engagement tool of their choosing.

Please click here to see RAG timetables for selected students (open in a new tab)



Summary of impact

The baseline information gathered was the amount of times students have truanted specific lessons/not attended. A baseline questionnaire was created to understand the students’ views. Attendance data from Arbour was taken as a percentage as well as the number of detentions during this period.

Attendance and behaviour points data from 7th Mar-28th Mar:

  •                            Attendance %        Behaviour Points
  • Student 1               90                             -162
  • Student 2               90                             -148
  • Student 3               86.5                           -132
  • Student 4               82.9                           -173
  • Student 5               73.55                        -218


Students were given a copy of their 2 week timetable and asked to RAG it. (Red, amber, green) for how they feel about the lesson. Impact is assessed by the post project questionnaire, number of detentions and attendance as a percentage.

Where students have attended, what they identified as red lessons and or amber lessons they have taken part in the learning through choice. There is less pressure on them to engage and take part, and this has had a positive impact as they have had the freedom and chosen for themselves to take part. This led to positive praise from the teacher who had not expected them to take part, and therefore increased the individuals self esteem, rather than feeling like they are hassled all the time.

Results show that attendance for student 1 and 2 have improved. However this has not been the case across the cohort. The duration of a lesson being 75 minutes has continued to have an impact. Most commonly this is detrimental. Students are aware that once they enter the classroom that’s where they have to stay for 75 minutes. This is increasingly difficult for our SEN students and has led to some making the choice to not enter the classroom at all, rather than being in a situation of getting restless or told that they are not conforming as expected.

Attendance and Behaviour points after the 6 week project. ( Data up to 23rd May):

  •                           Attendance %        Behaviour Points
  • Student 1               92.8                           -174
  • Student 2               91                              -164
  • Student 3               86                             -185
  • Student 4               82.9                          -219
  • Student 5               74                              -309

Detention Data:

  •                           7-28 Marc        28 March-20 May
  • Student 1              12                         4
  • Student 2              7                           3

As seen above results show that for student 1 and 2 the number of detentions they have received since the engagement project have decreased by at least 50%.

Please click here to see Student questionnaires  (opens in a new tab)

What would we do differently

The approach was a successful one, however with more planning time, issues could have been ironed out. An adaptation that we would make would be to reduce the array of engagement tools the students could choose from. Also making these less attractive to the other students within the classroom setting. Eg keeping it to colouring, wordsearches, crosswords etc. To eliminate the students being seen as different and the class being disrupted as a result.

Success was very much dependent on the attitude of the students. Results show that it was more effective for those that have a tendency to be asked to leave a lesson by the teacher as a result of their attitude to learning and receiving detentions as a consequence. Whereas the impact of the project was less effective for those students who were truanting 80% of their lessons, prior to the initiative. These students had a tendency to use the project as a way of challenging the directions and instructions given to them from the teacher.


No financial cost for this project, only TA time .

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