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© 2017 SEBDA. School attendance problems are associated with a range of adverse consequences, and educational practitioners play a role in identifying and responding to attendance problems. This qualitative study explored educational practitioners’ experiences of working with students with attendance problems and interventions to address them. Focus groups were conducted with sixteen practitioners across three secondary schools. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Attendance problems were considered resource-intensive and emotionally challenging. Practitioners expressed difficulty understanding causes, although individual/family factors were emphasised over school factors. A range of interventions were described, including adaptations to school context and providing emotional support. Views on punitive approaches were mixed. Individualised interventions implemented at the first sign of problems, and a team approach, were considered important. Findings highlight the important role of educational practitioners in identifying attendance problems and implementing interventions. Recommendations include early intervention, team-work, and emotional support for students with, and staff responding to, attendance problems.

Original publication




Journal article


Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties

Publication Date





213 - 225