Media Release: Student attendance

What the report is about

Poor attendance at school is related to poor student outcomes, particularly once patterns of non-attendance have been established.

This report examined how the NSW Department of Education (the department) is managing student attendance in NSW government schools.

What we found

Around a third of students in Years 1–10 attended school less than 90% of the time in Semester 1, 2021. Missing more than 10% of school may put a student's educational outcomes at risk.

Since 2018, the department has improved the quality of student attendance data, analysis and reporting. However, there are still gaps in understanding the reasons for absence at a system level.

The department set state-wide and school level targets to increase the proportion of students attending school at least 90% of the time. This emphasis risks diverting attention away from students with very low attendance rates.

There are gaps in central programs to support schools in lifting student attendance. Schools are taking a variety of approaches to this work.

There is a large gap in attendance between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students, which has increased since 2018.

What we recommended

The Department of Education should:

  • set new state-wide and school level attendance targets
  • evaluate its attendance support programs
  • update its attendance strategies and programs
  • publish the attendance level for each school in their annual reports
  • improve internal analysis and reporting of attendance data
  • finalise the review of the attendance policy, procedure and codes
  • review programs supporting Aboriginal student attendance and address any gaps
  • review the approach to enforcing compulsory school attendance.

Fast facts

  • 90% - attending school less than 90% of the time can put a student's educational outcomes at risk
  • 67.9% of Year 1–10 students in NSW government schools attended at least 90% of the time in Semester 1, 2021
  • 42.7% of Aboriginal Year 1–10 students in NSW government schools attended school at least 90% of the time in Semester 1, 2021.

Further information

Please contact Ian Goodwin, Deputy Auditor-General on 9275 7347 or by email.