Klein, Markus (Principal Investigator), & Sosu, Edward (Co-investigator)
Period: 01/09/2018 – 31/12/2020
Significant social inequalities in educational attainment are well-established in Scotland and elsewhere. Closing the poverty-related attainment gap has therefore been identified as the key priority in Scottish education policy. The literature on the mechanisms underpinning socio-economic differences in educational attainment has not yet seriously considered school absenteeism. Yet missing out frequently from school may hinder children’s ability to develop to their full academic potential and may, therefore, be detrimental not only for individuals’ life courses but also for Scotland’s economy and society. Investigating the prevalence, determinants and consequences of school absenteeism in Scottish schools is, therefore, an essential requirement for evidence-based changes in policy and practice.
This project aims to investigate whether differences in school attendance account for social inequalities in educational attainment and post-school destinations among pupils in Scotland. Due to differences in health-related behaviour, residential and school mobility, family structure and environment, and parental employment characteristics, children from lower socio-economic backgrounds may be more frequently absent from school than children from higher socio-economic backgrounds. In turn, missing out on important parts of the curriculum due to lower attendance, truancy, or exclusion may result in lower performance in school exams, decreased likelihood of continuing school after the compulsory schooling age, and lowering the likelihood of progressing to higher education. In addition, we will investigate whether school absenteeism is more detrimental to pupils from lower socio-economic backgrounds than to pupils from higher socio-economic backgrounds. Our results will have important implications for policy and practice.
The secondary data analysis will make use of the unique Scottish Longitudinal Study (SLS) which links Census data in 2001 and 2011 with administrative School Census and Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) data. The SLS is a large-scale, anonymised linkage study designed to capture 5.5% of the Scottish population based on 20 semi-random birthdates. These large-scale administrative data are unique in providing detailed and accurate information on family background, school attendance and school attainment among secondary pupils in Scotland. The use of administrative data on school attendance is advantageous as it provides more reliable data than survey information.
Our study explores whether, and to what extent, school absenteeism explains socio-economic differences in school performance and post-school destinations among secondary school students. It will provide a novel and comprehensive understanding of whether the type of school absenteeism, such as truancy, exclusion or legitimate absence matters. Finally, it will shed light on whether absenteeism is particularly detrimental for children from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Mapping Inequalities in School Attendance: The relationship between different socioeconomic dimensions and forms of school absenteeism was presented at the European Conference on Educational Research in Hamburg (03-06 September 2019). The paper is currently under review. A preprint can be accessed here.
In this paper, we investigated whether and to what extent dimensions of socioeconomic background (parental education, parental class, free school meal registration, housing status, and neighborhood deprivation) predict overall school absences and different reasons for missing school (truancy, sickness, family holidays and temporary exclusion) among 4,620 secondary pupils in Scotland. Participants were drawn from a sample of the Scottish Longitudinal Study comprising linked Census data and administrative school records. Using fractional logit models and logistic regressions, we found that all dimensions of socioeconomic background were uniquely linked to overall absences. Multiple measures of socioeconomic background were also associated with truancy, sickness-related absence and temporary exclusion. Social housing and parental education had the most pervasive effect across these forms of absenteeism.
Family Socioeconomic Status and School Absenteeism: A Systematic Review is currently under review
Despite the vast literature on socioeconomic inequalities in school attendance, no systematic review on family socioeconomic status (SES) and school absenteeism exists. This study systematically reviewed the literature (1998-2019) on the association between dimensions of SES and forms of absenteeism (n=55). The majority of studies (from high-income contexts, n=37) found that students from lower SES backgrounds had a significantly higher risk of missing out on school than their higher-SES peers. This result was largely confirmed by studies among at-risk populations and those from low- and middle-income countries. The moderating role of race and gender was inconclusive. There was greater evidence for an association between absenteeism and SES at the individual than at the school level. Studies using SES measures of financial resources (e.g., family income) provide more evidence for this association than studies analyzing socio-cultural resources (e.g., parental education). Research on the mediating pathways between SES and absenteeism are sparse.
School absenteeism and academic achievement: is missing-out on school more detrimental to students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds? was presented at the Society for Longitudinal and Lifecourse Studies Annual Meeting in Potsdam (25-27 September 2019)