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School staff have an important role to play in identifying and assisting pupils who require additional support to regularly attend school, but their beliefs about risk factors might influence their decisions regarding intervention. This qualitative study investigated educational practitioners' beliefs about risk factors for attendance problems. Sixteen practitioners from three secondary schools were interviewed via focus groups. Data were analysed using thematic analysis. Practitioners identified risk factors related to the individual, their family, peers and school. Poor mental health was identified as a risk factor, but practitioners primarily focused on anxiety rather than other mental health problems like depression or behavioural disorders. The overall perception was that school factors were less important than individual, family and peer factors. Implications include a need for increased awareness of the role of school factors in attendance problems, focus on promoting positive peer and pupil-teacher relationships, and collaborative working between young people, families and schools.

Original publication




Journal article


Emot Behav Diffic

Publication Date





15 - 28


School attendance, qualitative, school absence, school mental health, teachers