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.

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  • Reader

    Even in one dimension, the numbers are interesting. Who would have thought it, but it looks as though the primary schools are even more segregated by family income than the post-primary schools – I suppose that’s because their catchment areas are tighter. Postcode selection might be a complicating factor though.
    It would be easier to leap to wild conclusions if all the graphs used the same horizontal and vertical scales, though…

  • aquifer

    Are unemployed parents keeping kids at home ‘for company’?

    How is this working for the kids?

  • cynic2

    Some of the figures for absence are truely shocking. So what is happening in those cases? Is there follow up? Are parents held to account and made to get them to school or do the poor darlings just have too many problems to be bothered chasing them?

  • In my youth I was a FSM kid who had a lot more in common with the dinner ladies than my fellow pupils, indeed one dinner lady lived in my street and kept an eye on me and gave me bigger portions. You will never be forgotten Mrs Kenny.

  • Drumlins Rock

    you wern’t the only one articles 🙂 Espically when it came to cheesecake.

  • Sure I was only putting on the poor mouth.