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Improving School Attendance by Building Emotional Wellbeing in Students

By Life Skills Group

Published 27 April 2021 07.00 AM

The role of whole-school wellbeing in bolstering student attendance.

As educators, we know that student attendance is positively related to learning outcomes. A review of historical attendance data shows that disparities in attendance starting in primary school have a significant impact on an increase of absenteeism into secondary school (AITSL, 2019; Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, 2013). 

Even more concerning are the negative effects of absenteeism on academic performance accumulate over time (AITSL, 2019). Therefore, it is important to develop positive attendance patterns in the primary years. The question is how do we build these positive patterns, particularly when working with high-risk children and their families?

Building emotional wellbeing in students leads to positive attendance data.


A whole-school focus on student wellbeing plays a significant role in negating the challenges from long term patterns of absenteeism. Wellbeing in education aims to build students’ social, emotional and physical literacy (SEL) including key skills of self-regulation and self-awareness. 

Research shows that students need to be explicitly taught how to build self-regulation and self-awareness to give them the skills and resilience to face challenging situations which can cause absenteeism. While the immediate challenge is increasing attendance, the best strategy involves how we build students' social-emotional learning skills to regulate and make positive decisions about their learning. 

A deliberate whole-school approach to teaching social and emotional skills and wellbeing science is essential to building student capability and improving learning outcomes. Empirical research on the effectiveness of wellbeing practices at schools shows that a planned, strategic whole-school approach with regular assessment and evaluation of progress leads to the most effective wellbeing implementation. We have developed a practical, in-depth guide to implementing an effective, whole-school wellbeing strategy you can review HERE.

How to implement Social Emotional Learning effectively.


Social-emotional learning teaches social skills, such as building positive relationships and a sense of belonging, and emotional skills, including self-awareness and self-regulation. 

We have been collecting program impact data from teachers, students and parents over a twelve-year period. This collected data shows the aggregate positive effects of teaching social-emotional skills combined with neuroscience when taught consistently throughout their primary school education. 

Students who are high-risk in terms of low attendance often struggle with wellbeing and mental health challenges. While attendance plans and contracts are a legal requirement, they do not teach a child or their family how to manage particular circumstances they can find themselves in. 

All children should be given opportunities to experientially practice and learn how to use self-awareness and self-regulation to make positive choices and not find themselves in situations where absenteeism seems like the only option. 

The Life Skills GO platform is an online-blended learning platform that equips teachers with structured, curriculum-aligned lessons and resources to teach social-emotional skills in their own classes. The Life Skills GO platform also contains a unique tool: the Weather Report, which tracks and measures students’ emotional wellbeing allowing teachers to identify which students may need more support. Teachers can see what their students need emotionally in order to navigate the different emotions that they may feel on any given day without turning to harmful coping mechanisms. They can apply individual learning lessons to support students based on their needs and help teach them the core life skills to flourish. This, in turn, has a strong effect on bolstering children against challenges relating to attendance. 

Life Skills Group provides evidence-based, curriculum-aligned and measurable social, emotional and physical education solutions which enable children to thrive in their academic, personal and professional lives.


As our world continues to become more complicated, the role of education is changing. Schools are no longer just places for children to learn; schools have a larger role in contributing to the social, emotional and physical development of children to ensure they are able to succeed in all aspects of their lives. Equipping children with fundamental employability skills such as 21st Century Skills is becoming an increasing priority in education. Therefore, it is essential to take a whole-school strategic approach to wellbeing in order to be able to successfully deliver the core business of teaching and learning.

Increased absenteeism has a significant impact on academic performance. If we are not looking at how we build emotional wellbeing in students, we cannot expect to see positive patterns of attendance; therefore, teachers will struggle to optimise learning outcomes for students. It is essential that schools take a whole school strategic approach to wellbeing to ensure their students are able to thrive in their academic, personal and professional lives.

Life Skills Group programs are tailored to the individual school's needs, as well as the individual needs of each classroom. Teachers find that applying the experiential learning through Life Skills GO and implementing a whole-school wellbeing program consistently allows the school staff, students and parents to have a whole-school common wellbeing language. The results have shown a correlation in increased attendance, reduced disruptive behaviours and incidents, and improved academic outcomes; along with students who are thriving personally and academically as they build their SEL skills. 

At Life Skills Group, It is our vision that every child has access to an effective, measurable and affordable social, emotional and physical education. Educators have a great opportunity to equip young people with the skills they need to not only negate challenges like attendance and absenteeism but also enable children to thrive in their academic, personal and professional lives. Children are our future and with the consistent delivery of an effective whole-school wellbeing program, we are best placed to support their learning journey within school and beyond. 

Consult an Education Advisor

Want to learn more about how to implement these best practices in teaching your students to identify, understand and manage their emotions? Book a FREE wellbeing consultation with us today!


Additional Resources



Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. (2019). Spotlight: Attendance matters. https://www.aitsl.edu.au/docs/default-source/research-evidence/spotlight/11319-aitsl_spotlight_attendance_web-fa.pdf?sfvrsn=5bb0ff3c_6 

Cook, P. J. , Dodge, K. A. , Gifford, E. J. , & Schulting, A. B. (2017). A new program to prevent primary school absenteeism: Results of a pilot study in five schools. Children and Youth Services Review, 82 , 262– 270.

Hancock, K. J., Shepherd, C. C. J., Lawrence, D & Zubrick, S. R. (2013). Student attendance and educational outcomes: every day counts. Telethon Institute for Child Health Research. https://www.telethonkids.org.au/globalassets/media/documents/research-topics/student-attendance-and-educational-outcomes-2015.pdf 


About Life Skills Group

Our mission is to globally empower educators to prioritise, support and measure the development of social, emotional and physical literacy for our next generation of leaders. We provide curriculum-aligned, evidence-based and measurable social, emotional and physical education solutions which enable children to thrive in their academic, personal and professional lives.

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