Craigavon Senior High principal David Mehaffey has said the school is “working hard” to improve absenteeism after it was named as one of the province’s worst offenders.
Mr Mehaffey was speaking after a new, province-wide report placed Craigavon Senior High among the 10 schools with the highest absence rates.
A total of 28.8 per cent of pupils missed almost six weeks (15 per cent or more of their lessons), according to the report by the Northern Ireland Audit Office.
The senior high was ninth in the worst attendees list, with Orangefield High in Belfast the school with the highest proportion of absenteeism at 39.7 per cent.
Mr Mehaffey said the problem was “something we are very aware of” “and “something we have been working hard to improve in recent years.”
He added, “It is a significant whole school focus and through a number of initiatives we have sought to raise awareness and change attitudes. These include developing our pastoral systems to support good attendance, improving home-school contacts, providing parents and young people with information that links attendance with achievement and of course recognising and rewarding good attendance.
“We also work very closely with the Education Welfare Service.”
However, Mr Mehaffey said comparing Craigavon Senior High directly with other schools gave a false impression.
He explained, “The report recognises that non-attendance increases as pupils progress through school, with Year 11 pupils having the highest level of non-attendance. Our school only has Year 11 and Year 12 pupils and across Northern Ireland these are the year groups with the highest level of absence.
“Nevertheless, this is not to minimise the seriousness of the issue.
“There is a clear link between attendance and examination performance and we know that if we can improve attendance we will improve results.”
Across the province, around 20,000 children were absent from school for more than 15 per cent of the school year - double the absence rate in England. The report also revealed that only 4,000 of them had been reported to the Education Welfare Service.
Auditor general Kieran Donnelly said persistent absentees are more likely not to be in education, employment or training at age 16.