Improving attendance in post-16 providers is a major challenge and one with huge potential benefits. There is no getting away from this simple fact – if learners aren’t attending sessions, they’re not learning. And developing positive attitudes and habits around attendance is essential if young people (and adults come to that) are going to be successful in work and in their wider lives.

Here are a number of strategies that work…

1. Make sure that you have a joined-up approach to supporting and challenging learners who are at-risk of not attending. Identify who these learners are, track them and use your information management systems to record interventions put in place and the impact of these interventions.

2. Ensure a teamwork approach. Divide learners up amongst tutors, refer to further support – in and outside of the college where necessary, communicate concerns with other teachers and learn from colleagues about what works and what does not work with individual students. And don’t under-estimate the power of parents and carers – they can be powerful allies!

3. Identify hot spots of non-attendance and use this to discuss barriers with learners. Discuss with learners how these barriers can be removed. Explore with adult learners the issues they face in their personal lives and how these may be affecting attendance.

4. Communicate swiftly. Pick up the phone to a learner who is missing from a lesson and ask them why they haven’t attended that lesson. If you are teaching, get a colleague to do it. Speak to parents – a text or phone call home can result in the amazing appearance of the learner 30 minutes later!

5. Use competitions and prizes to improve attendance. Have groups compete against each other – peer pressure can often work wonders!

6. Much non-attendance is accounted for by learners who are on-site but not in lessons. Get learner services staff to sweep social areas and ‘cajole’ learners to lessons that they should be in.

7. Talk up the importance of attendance in lessons as a key employability skill. Use employers to do this too when they talk to learners.

8. Use technology and send work home to break the link between non-attendance and achievement. Learners can complete assignments, submit them, and receive feedback online – but don’t let this become a crutch.

9. Be resilient – don’t give up. A learner who knows that their tutor will be challenging them is more likely to attend next time.

10. Remember too that there is a correlation between good teaching and attendance. Learners are less likely to attend dull lessons or are more likely not to attend if they do not feel they are making progress.

So there you have it: ten tips for improving attendance in post-16 providers. Let us know in the comments about strategies you have used which really work.

For further reading on this topic, try these documents from Ofsted. You may also like my blog Are your Quality Improvement Plans measuring the right things?

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