Mother’s language is biggest single factor in primary absenteeism

Child without native English in home nine times more likely to have poor attendance

Despite langauge spoken in the home being the biggest single factor assocaitied with poor school attendance among nine- year-olds, having an immigrant mother had a positive impact on attendance.

Despite langauge spoken in the home being the biggest single factor assocaitied with poor school attendance among nine- year-olds, having an immigrant mother had a positive impact on attendance.

Thu, Jun 20, 2013, 15:37

The language spoken in a child’s home is the biggest single factor associated with attendance, a study on primary school absenteeism in Ireland has found.

A child whose mother’s native language was not English or Irish was nine times more likely to have poor school attendance than a child of a native English or Irish speaker, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) study has found.

The ESRI today released a bulletin on research into reasons for absenteeism among Irish primary school pupils.The study Persistent absenteeism among Irish primary school pupils was written by Maeve Thornton, Merike Darmody and Selina McCoy of the ESRI and published in the Educational Review earlier this year.

The findings regarding language spoken in the home is a “serious policy issue” and is “all the more pertinent in the contest of language support being cut in the 2008 budget due to the recession” the report authors said.

Language barriers also often fed into poor parental involvement in their child’s education, causing further problems with disengagement, it found.

Despite language spoken in the home being the biggest single factor associated with poor school attendance among nine- year-olds, having an immigrant mother had a positive impact on attendance.

Ethnic Irish

Children whose mothers were ethnic Irish were 2.5 times more likely to be in the high absentee group than children of immigrants, the study found. “The findings seems to indicate that while attendance may not necessarily be an issue for immigrants per se, language barriers seem to be a cause of concern for some immigrant children”, the authors said.

Lower levels of persistent absenteeism among immigrant children may point to higher motivation among this group to ensure their child succeeds at school, the authors said.

The paper is based on the National Longitudinal Study of Children in Ireland and uses data from the nine-year-old cohort in a random sample of schools . It compared children absent for 20 days or more to all others.

The impact of maternal depression was an important factor identified in the study . Children with a depressed mother had a 70 to 75 per cent greater chance of being absent than those who did not. However maternal depression is often associated with parental conflict, it said. It found that children who witnessed parental conflict were almost twice as likely to be persistently absent than those who had not.

Parental engagement was another major factor. Children with access to less than 10 books were 85per cent more likely to have attendance problems than those who had access to 10 to 20 books. Children whose parents did not attend parent teacher meetings were over three times more likely to have attendance issues.

Social class has shown to be a major factor in absenteeism in other international research and so it was found to be a significant factor in the Irish context. Children living in families with unemployment were three times more likely to have school attendance issues than those in the highest socio economic group.