The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced extraordinary challenges for further education (FE) providers in the UK, with colleges, councils, and adult learning institutions facing a new reality of managing sickness absence reporting.
Now with the ‘new normal’ including social distancing, self-isolation, and local lockdowns, FE providers are finding it more important than ever to keep accurate records of student absence. But in unprecedented circumstances – how do you manage absence reporting?
Institutions should aspire to a centralised and seamless absence management procedure, which can be achieved in a much more efficient way by using student attendance management systems. An automated absence reporting procedure gives managers the bigger picture of absence causes across the whole institution and leaves them with more time to analyse attendance data and improve student outcomes.
Using absence management software, the benefits in an ever changing education landscape are significant and important to improve learner experience, encourage achievement through attendance, and nurture a safe and caring learning environment for everyone.
The 5 key benefits of using absence management software are:
1. Reduces admin through automation
The current pandemic has highlighted issues with long-winded, outdated manual absence management processes. These processes can result in poor and disjointed experiences for FE students, who may be required to text, call and/or email, to ensure their absence is recorded. There are many disadvantages of manual student attendance systems such as hotlines and emailing, including:
- Increased admin time, resulting in frustrated staff and tutors
- Process variations in different schools of learning within one institution
- Lack of a centralised data management approach creating inconsistent data
- Unclear and confusing guidance for learners
Student attendance management solutions such as through Tribal’s ebs and Engage dramatically reduce staff admin time by empowering learners to easily self-report their absence from an app in the palm of their hands.
2. Empowers learners to take responsibility
In the working world, employees are largely expected to take responsibility for their own attendance. Giving learners the ability to easily self-report absences can empower them to take responsibility for their actions and act as a real introduction to employment.
Tribal Engage college app allows the learner to conveniently report their absence from their phone through a quick link. A few clicks and the absence is recorded and stored centrally. The app intuitively pulls through their timetable information so the student can view the classes they will miss and see the impact the absence will have on their attendance before submitting. On submitting, the learner can easily select the appropriate reason for absence from a prepopulated list.
3. Reduces student absenteeism
Ofsted (2013) research highlighted some negative effects of absenteeism in London colleges, which concluded that it is crucial to identify a pattern in absent behaviours as early as possible. Learners who were frequently absent commonly received lower grades and were less motivated to be engaged in class activities, creating a cycle of poor student attendance affecting achievement (Ofsted, 2013).
Where potential recurring absence issues or lower grades than expected are flagged through absence management software, positive staff intervention and support could improve a student’s attendance and overall happiness within the institution. This support increasing the likelihood of students having a positive learning experience and continuing onto further studies within an institution.
4. Allows you to understand patterns of student absences
Business Intelligence (BI) dashboards identify key trends in student attendance data, highlighting the importance of student attendance monitoring systems and their ability to enable powerful insights into absenteeism. Patterns emerging from this data could raise alarm bells, flagging students who may need more support, or could be at risk of failing or dropping out. Institutions can also easily configure data to show how COVID-19 has affected their absenteeism, drilling down to create graphs displaying self-isolation records as a reported reason for absence.
Registers which record present and absent marks but do not give the ability to report reasons for absence fail to capture these trends in their student attendance data, which is the key to improving student outcomes and retention. Through building attendance summary reports, teams can easily recognise the leading causes of absenteeism in their institution, based on accurate data through direct attendance reporting to a centralised system. An institution can then create absence trigger points, and these triggers will bring to attention any students who need more help. Students self-recording the reasons for their absence gives institutions the power to support students based on their needs. This absence data can enable staff to connect students to different teams where relevant, such as safeguarding, adult learning services, and mental health support. In turn, this can boost course and student retention rates, particularly in vulnerable students or those with additional needs.
5. Improves student wellbeing
The UK government issued FE COVID-10 guidance in June 2020 that recommended that colleges and other providers should encourage attendance and provide a safe space that can be an important lifeline for vulnerable young people.
Having a user friendly sickness absence management system removes stress and any additional worries from the process of reporting an absence for the student. Students won’t need to duplicate any efforts to report their absence; they can quickly record absence details once from their phone or laptop, simply allowing them to focus on their health and recovery.
This kind of software system enables FE providers to support students to be successful in their studies, empowers them to be responsible for their actions, and promotes a consistent, stress free reporting process. Ultimately a centralised absence reporting and management system like through Tribal’s Engage and ebs provide the basis of a safe, caring, and supported environment for students, and what institution doesn’t strive for that?
See how absence reporting works in action through Tribal’s ebs and Engage on this webinar – recorded June 2020