School absences, academic achievement, and adolescents' post-school destinations

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Most research on the consequences of school absenteeism has focused on academic achievement but not post-school outcomes. Using the Scottish Longitudinal Study (n = 2,941), we investigated the link between overall absences, truancy, sickness-related absences, and upper secondary school leavers’ post-school destinations. We also examined how upper secondary school achievement explains these associations. Overall school absences during the first year of upper secondary schooling decreased the likelihood of continuing further and higher education, but increased the likelihood of being employed, or not being in education, employment, or training (NEET). Sickness absences and truancy also reduced the likelihood of pursuing further and higher education. Truancy did not significantly increase the risk of NEET, but sickness absences did. Both absence types did not significantly influence the likelihood of being employed. Academic achievement mediated 78%-100% of the link between overall absences, sickness absences or truancy and entry into further and higher education versus being employed. While achievement explained 38%–55% of the link between all absences and further and higher education versus NEET, it did not explain the link between absences and NEET versus being employed. The study emphasises the necessity of reducing both unexcused and excused school absences and mitigating their effects.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalOxford Review of Education
Early online date16 Feb 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Feb 2024


  • school absences
  • truancy
  • school attendance
  • further and higher education


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