Discover more about our social marketing-based communications campaign to reduce school absenteeism in Hastings.

The Challenge

Hastings has some of the highest levels of school absenteeism in England at both the primary and secondary levels. The Hastings Opportunity Area commissioned the NSMC to develop and implement a schools-based communicatons campaign to highlight the positive impacts of good school attendance on pupils. 

What We Did


We carried out extensive research with families and young people in Hastings to understand their attitudes to school attendance. We sought to understand the reasons why young people and families don't always prioritise good school attendance as well as identifying the factors that might motivate them to change their behaviour.


Our research demonstrated that this is a highly emotive issue and there are many different reasons for poor school attendance and many different motivators for overcoming it. As a result, there is no 'one-fit-all' solution for the challenge and different approaches are required to address each of the segments that we identified.


Following the research phase of the project, we worked with the client to identify which of the segments we should tackle, realising that there were insufficient resources to tackle all of them. We then produced communication materials for each of the segments, based upon extensive co-design and pre-testing with the target audiences. 

What We Achieved

The campaign is currently underway and concentrates on three specific segments:

Absenteeism due to term time holidays - Many parents believe that it is acceptable to take their children out of school during term time for holidays. We developed materials that gave parents positive reasons for keeping their children at school, particularly at the end of the school year. We used images of actual local school children to communicate these messages. 

Absenteeism due to minor illness - Our research demonstrated that many primary school parents are unclear about the rules around when children should be sent to school with illnesses such as minor colds. We adopted a humorous approach to this campaign, developing a number of cartoons explaining the guidance to parents and introducing them to the character of Percy the Pirate Seagull. 

Absenteeism due to wellbeing issues - Our research showed that many pupils, particulary at secondary school, face attendance challenges due to issues around mental health, bullying or family problems. The research also demonstrated that many pupils were unaware of the services available to help them overcome these challenges, both in and out of school. To help overcome this, the NSMC co-designed with young people an attractive mobile exhibition that will visit schools and colleges in Hastings and highlight the various avenues of help available to them.

This attendance campaign is currently active and no evaluation has been carried out yet. However, initial comments from schools have been positive on the originality and tone of the various materials produced and distributed.