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Durham University

School of Education

Staff Profile

Mrs Haifaa Alabbad

Research Student in the School of Education

Contact Mrs Haifaa Alabbad

Mrs. Haifaa Alabbad


Mrs. Alabbad is a doctoral research student at School of Education at Durham University. She started her professional career in education as an English teacher for 12 years in secondary schools in her home country, Saudi Arabia. She had earned her master degree in education from Newcastle University.  

Research at Durham University 

The title of her study is "Finding the patterns of school attendance, and the relationship between school attendance and academic attainment, for KS4 pupils in England"  

One of the most significant current discussions in the field of education is school attendance. The growing concern over increasing school attendance is based on the assumption that regular school attendance is essential to gain high academic performance, and leads to developments in behaviour and social skills. There is consensus that school attendance is important for learning, having fun, making new friends, experiencing new things in life, developing awareness of others cultures, religions, ethnicity and gender differences, gaining qualifications, developing new skills, building confidence and self-esteem, and having the best possible start in life. However, there is a difference between attending schools in general and attending school regularly on a daily basis and not missing single school day.  

Researchers have studied the association between high school attendance and academic attainment. It is found that this association is uneven (Morris and Rutt, 2004). The link between school attendance and academic attainment is not straightforward (Sheppard, 2011) and pupils’ attendance in school has not yet been shown to be a root cause of low academic performance (Gorard, 2016). 

However, the Department for Education is insisted on raising school attendance and has put schools and parents under pressure due to the high attendance targets that the government requires. Parents have been to court to appeal against fines imposed by DfE for taking holidays during term-time. Debates have been conducted in parliament. Therefore, this study seeks to investigate further the patterns of attendance and their relationship with academic attainment for KS4 in England in 2014. Exploring pupils’ characteristics such as gender, eligibility for Free School Meal (FSM), ethnicity, English as an Additional Language (EAL), and Special Educational Needs (SEN) in terms of patterns of attendance, and to what extent each pattern may influence academic achievement. This investigation of the existing data of pupils’ attendance and academic performance could be a good indicator for promoting school attendance and performance by giving the policy makers and school administrators an opportunity to view what is happening in this field and provide an evidence to make more informed decision. 

The main questions of this study are: 

  1. What is the relationship between prior pupil absence and academic achievement in Key Stage 4 once other factors are accounted for? 

  1. To what extent do patterns of pupil ‘s attendance affect academic performance? 

  1. What are the main factors that affect pupils' attendance at school? 

  1. To what extent does type of school affect pupils’ attendance? 

The research is based on analysing the National Pupil Database (NPD). NPD offers rich data about pupils in all state-funded schools in England. The project data are school attendance data for KS4 and academic attainment data for KS4, KS3, KS2 and KS1. Utilised sample consists of absence data for (n=1,692,004) pupils, exclusion data (n = 64,820 p) pupils, and KS4, KS3, KS2 and KS1 academic attainment and some personal characteristics (n = 628,346) pupils. 

Research Interests

  • Parents' engagment
  • Poverty
  • Pupil's disaffection

Research Groups