Does your attendance process measure up to the expectations of the new EIF – and the expectations of your Gen Z students?

Since the new Education Inspection Framework (EIF)1 was published in May 2019, over half of college inspection reports make a direct comment about student attendance. In some cases, they note that attendance is exemplary or has improved but, in most, it is because student attendance needs some work.

This is hardly surprising: the EIF section relating to ‘Behaviour and attitudes’ specifically says that: “Inspectors will make a judgement on behaviour and attitudes by evaluating the extent to which:  learners have high attendance and are punctual.”  It also points out that Inspectors will be looking at learner’s conduct and commitment to their training, to which attendance is obviously related.

Clearly, one of the challenges Further Education colleges currently face is the accurate and timely recording of attendance data.  And we can all share anecdotes about how this is currently managed in any given college. Which of these sounds most familiar to you?

The receptionist listens to the message, goes online to find out which course the student is on, find out who their personal tutor is then send them an email to say that the student has called in sick.  (All of which takes, say, an average of five minutes per student…?)

The student phones a member of staff, who then has to find out what lessons they have today and with whom, then send them an email to say that the student has called in sick.  (And the tutor probably doesn’t see the message until after the class…)

Nothing happens… There were 50 messages left, there’s no time to go through them.

How we manage attendance also has a direct effect on a learner’s engagement with the college and their course.  If they turn up late but did call in and leave a message, what reception do they get from their teacher – and how does that make them feel?  If they are off sick but have called in and left a message, how do they feel when someone ‘phones up to see why they aren’t in – and what impression does that give of the effectiveness of college communications?

But… and it’s a big but…. Attendance reporting has got to be a process in which the student is fully engaged.  They have to understand it and they have to use it.  How do we do that?

The vast majority of the population in further education right now are Generation Z (or Gen Z, iGeneration or post-Millennials, if you prefer). This generation was born since 1996 and have grown up in an age of constant technological progress.  They have never known life without smart ‘phones (not to make calls on but to access various online content) and typically use five screens (compared to the Millennial generation averaging three screens).

Generation Z is definitely ‘mobile first’ – but is your attendance system compatible with their expectation? Marketing agency Generate UK have written a compelling article2 about how we should be communicating with our youngest generation and we think it’s something that further education should take a lesson from. We should be ensuring that the technology we use in college is smart ‘phone compatible first and PC compatible second.  We should be clear and ‘human’ with our messages, as ‘authenticity’ is a key concept for Gen Z.

If this a challenge that faces you, we’d love to give you a demonstration of eNotify, our absence management tool which notifies and displays attendance data in a live dashboard. If you choose to enable it, it also has an app’ that allows students to notify you from their ‘phone.  Existing customers tell us that it has had a positive effect on the accuracy of their data and their ability to spot trends and follow-up concerns.  Please get in touch if you’d like to see how.


  1. The Education Inspection Framework May 2019, No. 190015 can be found at: 47 College reports published relating to Inspections conducted between May 2019 and January 2020, 28 reference attendance figures.
  2. Generate UK article on Generation Z: