How can we use Power BI in the fight to reduce pupil absence? In May 2022 the DfE launched a new initiative to improve attendance rates in schools – “Working together to improve school absenteeism“. The challenge for those of us who work with school data is therefore to provide schools with the analysis tools to support them. Here’s an example of a report created in Power BI that will form part of the latest version of School Analytics (School Analytics is a pre-configured Power BI template for your school).

The register

You can see that we’ve been able to replicate the familiar register structure using a matrix visualization in Power BI. Users can re-order the weeks down the side in chronological or reverse chronological order. We’ve added colours to the individual marks so that the patterns become easier to spot. Green for present marks, yellow for authorised absences, red for unauthorised absences. Approved educational activities are in blue and late marks, although technically present marks, we’ve highlighted in a pink shade.

Patterns to look for

The new guidance suggests that schools should look for absences “Where a pupil has been granted a leave of absence (under regulation 7) and the pupil has not attended school within the ten school days immediately after the end of the period granted”. On our register view (above) we would be looking for red (unauthorised) absence bookending a period of authorised absences (in yellow).

Attendance by weekday

When we look for attendance patterns, one of the key indicators that a pupil has an attendance problem that certain days tend to have poorer attendance than others. For example,in the screenshot above, our example pupil has noticeabke poorer attendance on Wednesday and Thursday. Looking back to the register, we can see a pattern of illness over a number of weeks that coincided with these days. Something for further investigation, perhaps.

Reasons for absence by weekday

By breaking down the reasons for absence we can find more patterns in the data. Unauthorised absences at the start and end of the week would be a reason to investigate further. Lateness on certain days of the week would also be a good indicator of a specific problem.

Mark breakdown

Finally, this section provides some number and a summary of the this pupils lateness record. Not shown on the screenshot, we have also added the percentage of marks in each category, as well as the actual number of marks.