Day in day out: a case study of poor attendance at primary school level a study in an educationally disadvantaged setting
AbstractAttending school is a significant experience during the course of a person’s lifetime. It contributes to the foundation of emotional, social, cognitive, moral and spiritual development, particularly at pre-school and primary school levels. Despite its importance, it is not available to all children equally and this phenomenon mirrors broader societal inequalities. During the past three decades in Ireland there has been much discourse and financial investment focusing on educational disadvantage, yet it remains an intractable problem for society. This thesis provides one lens through which educational disadvantage can be investigated: school absenteeism at primary level in schools located in an area designated as disadvantaged. The research provides information on: 1) the attendance of 306 students in one school-year and 2) the experience and perceptions of seven key personnel dealing with school absenteeism on a daily basis. The inquiry was conducted in a systematic way to ensure the validity of the findings and a contribution to the knowledge already available on absenteeism in primary level schools. The research adopts a case study research strategy and applied a mixed-methods sequential explanatory design. The study traces the key concepts underpinning absenteeism in Irish and international literature as the substantive focus of the thesis. The broader frame locates the issue of school absenteeism within inequality of education and educational disadvantage using an interdisciplinary approach. This work considers public policy in relation to Irish education, educational disadvantage and school attendance with a particular focus on relevant legislation and policy implementation. Having established that there is a serious problem of poor attendance in some Irish primary schools a key conclusion of this research is that while the Education (Welfare) Act (Government of Ireland, 2000) provides the legislative and policy mechanism to curtail the extent of absenteeism at primary level, serious attention needs to be given to its full implementation. Despite the high levels of absenteeism in schools designated as disadvantaged there is evidence of a strong and definite commitment to prevent and curtail this phenomenon within the educational system. It is evident from the interviews that this is a key area of concern for all the personnel involved.