Case Study

Low Attendance on Christmas Jumper Day – Part of the Open Data Project for Schools

In December 2018 askEddi and the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) brought together a steering group of 12 head teachers across Liverpool, Tameside, Lancashire and Derbyshire on a unique pilot to find ways to improve attendance, to work smarter and innovate on ideas to develop wide-reaching, regional solutions to attendance issues.

Using smart data dashboards to improve best practice and intervention strategies, we have demonstrated that key events can impact on school attendance, and this knowledge can be used by schools to take action. Using data mining and data analytics techniques we have developed an accurate data story, identifying patterns and behaviour variances.

Working with our pilot schools and ASCL as part of the Open Data Project for Schools, we developed our smart dashboard solution to help schools understand and manage their attendance. The dashboard is simple to use and securely takes data from schools’ existing management information system. The findings from our pilot groups have shaped how the data is modelled, presented and used within schools to support attendance intervention strategies.

Our first major insight came in December 2018 when we reviewed at the first month’s data and noticed low attendance on 14th December. Most of the participating schools had similar attendance figures on that day so, as a group, we looked more closely to see if there was a pattern.

The pilot group checked to see if it was a snow day, or a city-wide event, but the common theme is that it was Christmas Jumper day – a relatively new fundraising event in the style of Jeans for Genes or Wear It Pink. Children were invited to wear festive jumpers for the day and donate to charity.

“We can now identify which days of the week or month are a pattern for attendance. Is it birthdays, school events, specific times of the day? Our attendance officers are looking at the data to see the story behind it. Where it might take hours to get that information previously, if at all, now we can do it in 20 minutes.”

David Waugh, Head Teacher Poynton High School

What schools hadn’t realised, is that in many less-affluent areas, the addition of another day which required the purchase of a specific item of clothing, plus an expected donation, meant that parents chose to keep children home, or the children themselves chose not to attend to avoid peer pressure.

Only one school had no change to their attendance on 14th December as their head teacher had noticed this insight in past years and had arranged for children to make decorations and weren’t obliged to wear a jumper or make a donation.

Further analysis showed the impact more acutely across disadvantaged cohorts of pupil premium pupils which include free school meals.

Schools plan to action the findings this year by organising alternative activities that don’t involve specific clothes or additional expenditure, or by holding “jumper amnesty” earlier in December for families to donate or exchange last year’s jumper for a different size or design.

Read coverage of the findings on TES.com

“What we’ve identified, which is obvious if you think about it, is that days that are ‘fun’ and for good causes are not necessarily fun at all if you don’t have a Christmas jumper. The net result is that a noticeable proportion of disadvantaged youngsters didn’t come to school that day.”

Duncan Baldwin, Deputy Direct of Policy, ASCL and Co-Founder Open Data Project for Schools

School 1:
  • Noticeable decrease in whole school attendance on  14th December
  • Increase in authorised absence on the 14th December (parents keeping children home and reporting illness).
  • Increase in unauthorised absence compared to the previous day (almost double).
School 2:
  • Specifying just the Pupil Premium cohort, we see a 3% increase in unauthorised PP absence on 14th December compared to the previous week

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