Talking Impact: Measuring your impact on school attendance

Why is attendance important now?

Attendance has been a crucial topic of discussion in the education space, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic when many more children started to be persistently absent: the rate of persistent absenteeism rose to 22.3% in the 2022-23 academic year compared to 10.9% in 2018-19. What works when improving attendance in the UK schools has a small evidence base. Moreover, what works for one school doesn’t necessarily work for the other and the effectiveness of interventions is context dependent.

To address this gap in evidence, ImpactEd Evaluation launched Understanding Attendance in Spring 2023 as a national project to help schools understand the drivers behind poor attendance. The Understanding Attendance Report contains key findings about drivers of attendance based on surveys with over 30,000 young people and attendance data for over 200,000 pupils.


The Talking Impact Event

At our fourth Talking Impact workshop on 26th March 2024, we presented key findings from our Understanding Attendance Report and how they can be used by education organisations working with young people, schools, and Trusts to understand what works when improving attendance and evaluate the impact of their organisations and interventions on pupils’ attendance. We were grateful to have four amazing panellists join the workshop: Siân Cogan, Impact and Systems Manager at Jamie’s Farm; Jake Farrell, Investment Director at Impetus; Jenny Graham, Director of Research, Impact, and Influence at The Difference; and James Reeves, Senior Policy Lead at Football Beyond Borders. We drew on their first-hand experience and advice on evaluating the impact of their interventions on pupil attendance.

The session along with panel discussion were facilitated by Charlotte Dougan from the Impact Partnerships team at ImpactEd Evaluation.


Key discussion points

The session was attended by over 50 participants who engaged in active discussion on the evaluation of impact on attendance. The key points involved:

  • Panellists discussed that the evidence for sense of belonging as a driver for attendance as well as reducing exclusions resonated with them. Even though not all of them measured sense of belonging explicitly, their interventions had aspects of fostering a sense of belonging to school with the pupils that they worked with which contributed to improving attendance.
  • Some key challenges when evaluating the impact on attendance were also discussed by the panellists which were collection and analysis of attendance data. Even though schools are a ‘data rich environment’, it is often challenging to access the relevant data from them. Additionally, tracking attendance for pupils who are at risk of exclusion and may be facing managed moves can be tricky to do manually. When it comes to analysing this data, the panellists noted that it is valuable to have a matched control group to compare it against, so as to really ascertain the source of the impact. They noted that tools such as ImpactEd Evaluation’s School Impact Platform have been useful in easily collecting the data and creating a matched control group for comparative analysis.
  • Finally, the panellists shared some practical advice for evaluating impact on attendance. First, they noted the need for collecting as much relevant data as possible which helps in painting a holistic picture of young people’s attendance and the nuances behind it. Second, when analysing this data, a matched comparison group is crucial to help attribute impact to your intervention. Lastly, the panel said it was important to bear in mind that attendance is complex, and one needs to be careful about its intersectionality. If an organisation is working with young people with complex needs, they may not see a large change in data, but it doesn’t always mean that there is an absence of impact.


What’s next?

The Talking Impact events take place regularly and the next iteration will be in the second half of 2024. Keep an eye out on our socials for what our next theme will be! If you have any suggestions of topics you would love to see captured, do feel free to reach out to us on

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