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The Importance of Student Attendance

In the WECDSB, we know how important school attendance and established routines are for students to build knowledge, skills and confidence. We also recognize that ensuring consistent attendance at school relies on strong home/school relationships and consistent communication. 

Every day that a student is absent from school is a lost opportunity for that student to learn, build social skills, and receive the benefits associated with the sense of community found within our schools. Chronic or prolonged absenteeism can also result in decreased academic success and related employment prospects later in life. Increased feelings of anxiety following long periods away from school are also common as students begin to worry about their grades, lost credits, catching-up on missed assignments, as well as interactions with their peers who may wonder where they have been.

For students struggling with attendance, the WECDSB offers many supports including access to an Attendance Counsellor, Child and Youth Worker, Mental Health professional or other school staff including teachers and administrators.  Referrals to community agencies can also be initiated from the school.  These supports are in addition to the many ways schools ensure students keep connected and on top of their learning for periods when they have to be absent.

While Ontario Law states that children between the ages of  6 and 17 must attend school, we do understand that sometimes illness and other circumstances mean that a student must be away for a period of time.  These situations, however, should be exceptions and school administrators have a responsibility to follow up and address extended absences with families.

Please know there are many supports and resources available to you at the school to promote regular attendance with your children.  Do not hesitate to contact the school if you have questions or concerns.  In addition, please refer to the list below of home-based practices that can help encourage attendance with your child should issues arise.

Did You Know?

If your child misses… That equals… Which is… Over 13 years of schooling this is…
1 day every 2 weeks 20 days per year 4 weeks per year Approximately 1 ½ years of schooling
1 day every week 40 days per year 8 weeks per year Approximately 2 ½ years of schooling
2 days per week 80 days per year 16 weeks per year Approximately 5 years of schooling
3 days per week 120 days per year 24 weeks per year Approximately 7 years of schooling


Tips and Strategies for Families

Below are some different tips and strategies that families can try at home to help encourage school attendance.

  • Keep in mind that attendance issues can quickly escalate.  Parents/guardians need to intervene and reach out for support as early as possible before it becomes the norm.
  • Keep the expectation in your home of attending school and staying all day.  Don’t give up.
  • Even if your child is anxious about school, ensure the expectation of regular attendance doesn’t change.  Work on the issue, not around it.
  • Talk to your child to find out what is behind them not wanting to go to school.  Anxiety can show up in a lot of ways and one of them can be not wanting to go to school.
  • Ask questions about your child’s worries about school.  Although you know your child well, try not to assume you know the answers.  Keep an open mind. Validate your child’s concerns.
  • If your child is having difficulty with attendance try setting a goal with them such as if they attend for a certain amount of time, they can do a special activity.

Consistent Routines:
  • Practice consistent bedtime and morning routines with your child.
  • Parents can model the same routine at home, as it helps students stick to the routine of coming to school each day.
  • Having a set schedule for sleep and nutrition is key to a good morning and feeling good about coming to school.
  • Preparing for school at night so that the morning is less hectic can be helpful.  Organizing clothing, packing backpacks and including favourite foods can be reassuring.
  • Putting out clothes and making lunch the night before can help get your child out the door in the morning.
  • If your child does refuse to attend school, try having no screens/devices during the time when they are at home. Make staying home as boring as possible!
  • Shutting down the home Internet can be helpful if this is a draw for your child to stay at home.

Environment at Home: Night Time
  • Creating an environment conducive for improved sleep hygiene (e.g. dark room, quiet, sound machine, light in morning, consistent bed and wake times).
  • Ensuring at least 30 minutes of screen-free time before bed and removing all electronics from bedrooms before bed can be helpful.
  • Limiting screen time before bed is key to winding-down and getting a great night’s sleep!

Involving the School:
  • Know that there are supports in your child’s school.  Connect with them as soon as an issue starts. Connecting earlier is better than when your child has missed a lot of school.
  • If your child wants to leave school, try to have them connect with a caring adult in the school first to see if things can be worked out before your child goes home.
  • Reach out to your school Principal and/or Guidance department for help if your child is not coming to school.  Let’s talk!  There is no judgement!
  • A welcoming school approach has proven to be quite effective. Ensure your child is familiar with their school Principal, Vice-Principal and other caring adults in the building.
  • Talk to the school team about anything you are hearing that might be difficult for your child at school.  School staff are always ready to help problem solve.
  • If going into the classroom is hard – remember coming into the school building and meeting with a caring adult in a safe space is an important step in getting back to school.

Next Steps/What to do if it’s not working:
  • Be consistent! Don’t give up. And know that there are supports for parents if you need them.
  • There are resources available within schools and community supports if there are other barriers to attendance such as having enough food for lunches.
  • Here’s a great resource with existing handouts and evidence based information:

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