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.