Key takeaways

  • Social emotional skills, particularly self-management and emotional regulation, are hugely influential in decreasing student absenteeism.
  • When assessing barriers to absenteeism, it's important to differentiate between reasons why a student may not want to attend school or may not be able to.

Student absenteeism, or the frequent and unexcused absence from school, can have a significant impact on a student's academic performance and long-term success. Absenteeism can also affect the overall performance of a school and contribute to a negative school climate - as well as being caused by one. However, improving social emotional skills can have a positive impact on reducing absenteeism in schools, and we will explore this impact below.

Why are improved social emotional skills important to reducing absenteeism in schoolsThey help students feel connected to their school

Firstly, social emotional skills can help students to develop a sense of belonging and connection to their school community, which research has shown is hugely influential in young learner’s development. Students who feel a sense of belonging and connection to their school and community are more likely to attend school regularly and be engaged in their learning. A positive school climate that prioritizes social emotional skills can help to create this sense of connectedness for all students, which can then lead to improved attendance.

They help students deal with stress

Secondly, social emotional skills can help students to develop coping strategies to deal with stress and adversity. Students who struggle with social emotional skills such as emotional regulation may experience higher levels of stress and anxiety, which can be a reason for absenteeism. However, students who have well-developed social emotional skills are better equipped to manage stress and adversity, which can minimize that barrier to school attendance and success.

They help target why a student may be absent

When assessing which skills students should develop to increase their chances of attending school, it’s necessary to consider the reasons behind their barriers to attending. Disliking their peers or teachers may be a reason why a student doesn’t want to attend school, but for others, they may not be able to attend. Examples of this are students with adverse childhood experiences or big responsibilities at home, such as looking after siblings or parents, or with part-time jobs to meet financial obligations. For these students, attending school can be even more tiresome and difficult, so working closely with them to develop key social emotional skills could be what they really need.

Read: How can you help the ACEs in your classroom?

Depending on the student’s reason for absenteeism, it could be highly effective for counselors, teachers, and other school staff to work with students who are often absent from school to develop their self-management and decision-making skills. Students who struggle with these may have difficulty managing their time and prioritizing their responsibilities, which can lead to absenteeism.

They help students develop positive relationships

Additionally, social emotional skills can help students to develop positive relationships with their peers and the adults in the community. Students who feel supported and connected to their peers and adults are more likely to attend school regularly and be engaged in their learning, which is critical for their academic, social, and emotional development. When students have positive relationships with the people in their school community, they are more likely to feel motivated to attend school to see them.

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In conclusion, improving social emotional skills can have a significant impact on reducing absenteeism in schools. By promoting a sense of belonging and connection, coping strategies, self-regulation and self-management, and positive relationships, schools can create a more supportive learning environment that promotes regular attendance and engagement. Schools can encourage the development of social emotional skills by implementing social emotional learning programs, providing training for teachers and staff on how to promote positive behavior, and creating a positive school climate that values empathy, respect, and understanding.


Author: Fern Dinsdale

Posted: 09 May 2023

Estimated time to read: 3 mins

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