Plotting school attendance rates in Lisburn and Newry

Over the weekend, The Detail published details about school attendance in Northern Ireland using 2010/11 attendance data for every primary and post-primary school that was released by the Department of Education in response to their Freedom of Information request.

Quoting some of The Detail’s findings:

  • The average pupil attendance across all schools in Northern Ireland in the last school year was 94%.
  • However, our analysis of the department’s figures shows that the attendance levels for at least 20,914 pupils fell below the critical level of 85% of the total half days.
  • Almost 12% of pupils enrolled in post-primary schools were absent for more than 15% of the total half days – compared to 5% in primary schools.
  • Department statistics show that illness accounted for 59% of all absent half days in primary schools during 2010/11 and 48% in post-primary schools.
  • The level of overall absence in secondary schools was 9.1% of the total half days – much higher than the 4.6% in grammars.
  • And the proportion of total half days missed due to suspension from post-primary schools was more than three times higher for males than for females.

The full data in Excel format is available and includes “each school’s overall attendance rate, a breakdown of each school’s ‘authorised’ and ‘unauthorised’ absences and the percentage of pupils with poor attendance”. The Detail explains:

Permitted authorised absences include bereavement, suspension, medical/dental appointments and illness. An unauthorised absence is when permission is not given due to “unexplained or unjustified absence” – for example a family holiday which has not been agreed to by the school.

The Detail’s online article includes a clickable map of NI showing individual school attendance rates.

Lisburn and Newry school attendance - using data gathered by The Detail

Rather than look at the results from individual schools – which can easily be skewed by one or two pupils – I quickly produced some scatter graphs for the primary and post-primary schools in the cities of Lisburn and Newry, plotting the each school’s Free School meals Entitlement against the Overall Attendance Rate.

While FSME is a crude and imperfect measure, the correlation is fairly consistent.

Alan Meban. Normally to be found blogging over at Alan in Belfast where you’ll find an irregular set of postings, weaving an intricate pattern around a diverse set of subjects. Comment on cinema, books, technology and the occasional rant about life. On Slugger, the posts will mainly be about political events and processes. Tweets as @alaninbelfast.