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Helping Parents Understand Why Good Attendance is Important

The right message to the right person at the right time

One of the big talking points of this school year so far has been how parents are no longer treating school attendance as a priority.

It’s something the DfE has recognised and they’ve provided a toolkit to help schools improve their messaging around attendance. Working on finding the right message is, of course, key to improving communication with parents. But the right message is only part of the solution.

As any marketer will tell you, delivering a message that gets results hinges on three things:

Sending the right message to the right person at the right time.

These are tried and tested principles that could really help schools improve their communication with parents. So, how do you make sure your communication ticks those boxes?

The Right Message

Reports suggest that parents have lost sight of the importance of good attendance. It seems that the once popular “every day matters” message no longer resonates with parents after Covid lockdowns, remote learning and quarantining.

So, finding the right message is key to helping parents understand why attendance matters and why, importantly, they should actively ensure their child attends school as much as possible.

There are a lot of factors that come into play when deciding on the right messaging, and it may be different for every school. One good way to find the right messaging is to discuss what good attendance means to your staff and pupils. What are your school values? Where does attendance fit in to that?

You could even run a focus group with pupils to give them the opportunity to explore what attending school means to them. You could then base your messaging on the results of this.

The Right Person

Thankfully, this one’s very easy. You need to contact the person responsible for making sure a child is attending school. This is usually their parent or guardian. But it’s also important to consider the impact of speaking to pupils themselves, particularly as they get older.

The Right Time

With the right message written and the right person decided on, the last thing is the right time. This is crucial to getting good results. Make contact too late and you might have more difficulty changing an engrained problem. Message too early or at a random time, and parents may just dismiss what you have to say.

So how do you find the right time?

An effective way to choose the right time is to use live attendance data to help you. For example, when a pupil’s attendance falls below a certain threshold, that triggers a message to be sent to their parents. That means that you’re sending your message right at the time when it should have the biggest impact.

Studybugs has developed automated alerts for parents that do exactly that. You set the trigger, create your template and it will automatically be sent whenever a pupil meets the criteria. See some examples.

You could also think about sending messages that tie in with your school calendar. For example, reiterating the need for good attendance when returning from school holidays.

Also Consider How You’ll Deliver The Message

Alongside all the points above, you’ll need to consider how you contact parents about attendance. Do you send letters home? Call them? Try to catch them at the school gate?

For schools using Studybugs, you’ll know that sending messages via Studybugs means your messages go straight to a parent’s phone (or email address if they haven’t signed up). It’s a simple way to make sure your message reaches them and it includes read receipts so you’ll know when they’ve picked it up.

Starting with Studybugs messages and escalating to phone calls and in-person meetings is a solid starting point for your ‘how to make contact’ strategy.

If you don’t yet use Studybugs, you can access our messaging features for free. Register to get started.

One Final Tip: Experiment!

Another thing schools could take from marketing professionals is to test your messages. Does a certain word elicit a stronger response? Does counting absence by number of days resonate more than a percentage? Does it work better to send a message when a pupil falls below 95%, 93% attendance or both?

Part of a strong attendance policy is the ongoing maintenance and improvement of it, so you can keep amending as you go to make sure your messages continue to perform strongly.

Hopefully, this article has got you thinking about ways you can improve your messaging around attendance. If you’d like to speak to one of the team at Studybugs about improving parental engagement, please .

— Lucas Abbott

Posted 27 October 2023 Share

Share Pupil Absence With Parents By Number of Days Absent

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Posted 23 October 2023 Share

Why Missing Marks Are a Problem and How To Correct Them

Missing Marks

We often find missing marks in the registers when we first meet with schools, sometimes totalling in the thousands! Missing marks can be time-consuming to correct at best and a big safeguarding problem at worst, so it’s important to take steps to correct them quickly.

Early in the year is the perfect time to make sure your processes for handling missing marks are shipshape, as tackling any problems now means they’ll be much easier and quicker to fix.

But why do they build up in the first place? Here we take a look at why and outline what you can do to prevent it happening.

Why Do Missing Marks Build Up?

Missing marks generally build up because many systems ignore them or treat them as “not required”, meaning if you’re not looking for them you might not even know they’re there. This practice can lead to incomplete or incorrect data and nasty surprises later.

Every session for every pupil should have an appropriate code filled in; if attendance is genuinely not required, there are specific codes that account for that (X for non-compulsory school age, for example). You can find a full list of register codes and their uses on pages 55 to 65 of the DfE’s “working together” guidance.

Why Is It Important to Keep On Top of Missing Marks?

First of all, any missing mark means a child’s whereabouts are not accounted for. This is most acutely important on the day of the mark in question in order to ensure their safety.

After that day, missing marks will affect a pupil’s year-to-date attendance. This is where the practice of systems ignoring them is misleading, as your system might tell you a pupil’s attendance is one thing, but the missing marks mean it’s actually lower. Studybugs treats missing marks as absence, giving a more accurate picture of attendance.

The other problem with marks building up is that you’re less likely to be able to accurately correct them after a lot of time has passed.

How Can You Correct Missing Marks?

The best way to correct missing marks is to resolve them as they occur. This can be done with a combination of making sure all teachers correctly complete each register and regularly checking for missing marks at whole-school level. Studybugs can help you with both of these.

Resolving as you go means you don’t need to correct them in bulk, for example at census time, ahead of an inspection or at the end of the year. Studybugs schools can receive daily alerts listing any missing marks so they can correct their data while it’s still fresh. They can also view all missing marks at any time.

For primary schools using Studybugs Registers, teachers will also see a warning on their register if it hasn’t been completed.

Studybugs Registers


Keeping on top of missing marks ensures all children are accounted for and that genuine unexplained absences can be chased. It also means your data is complete and there are no nasty surprises later.

I hope this has been helpful. If you have any questions about missing marks, please .

— Lucas Abbott

Posted 6 October 2023 Share

Should You Use One IT System for Everything?

Thinking about IT systems
Original image by kreatikar from Pixabay, edited by Studybugs

The EdTech world is large and varied, and it can be quite daunting trying to keep on top of all the different costs, licences, staff access, passwords, training and everything else that comes with using several systems.

Which leads to the obvious question:
Can I use one central system for everything?

But perhaps the question should be:
Is it actually better to use one system for everything?

Let’s take a look.

One System Means Only One Integration

A benefit to a school IT system that does everything is that once it’s set up, you don’t need to worry about different programmes talking to each other, because everything’s all in one place. The downside of course is that if that one system goes down, it takes everything with it.

Using One System Can Be Simpler to Manage

Another benefit is that one system is simpler to manage. If you have one login, one subscription, one renewal date, that certainly gives you fewer things to worry about.

Of course, multiple logins may not be a big issue anyway as many single purpose systems now support SSO (single sign-on) through your workplace login (such as Google Workspace or Microsoft Azure).

Single Purpose Systems Can Be More Comprehensive

To state the obvious, the biggest benefit to single purpose systems is that they are excellent at one thing. Their focus isn’t divided, so they can commit to making their particular service the best it can be.

You’d be hard pressed to find a system that genuinely offers the best solution for every job from attendance to behaviour management, timetabling to payments. Using different systems means that you are likely to get more out of each one and have a better experience doing so.

Using Separate Systems Gives You More Flexibility

Another benefit of keeping your school IT solutions separate is that you’re not tied in to one system and can make individual changes where necessary. So if your supplier hikes up their prices, or a particular service no longer meets your needs, you can make a switch.

With one system, if there’s a key element that no longer works well for you, you either have to pay twice by also buying that part separately, or you have to change your whole system.

Keeping Things Separate Gives Staff More Autonomy

Keeping school IT systems separate means that you can give staff more choice over what they use. For example, if your Attendance Officer is already familiar with some particular school attendance software, they can request to use that without it affecting what other staff members use for their roles.

Considering the Benefits of Each System

If you’re looking solely at the features of each system, you’ll be able to check these off against what your school needs. But that’s not always the full picture.

Many systems offer similar features on paper, but what sets them apart is the benefits that come from the unique way they deliver them. As a slightly silly example, both an app and a carrier pigeon could provide parent communication as a feature. But the benefits of each would be vastly different.

Staff pigeonholes would be considerably messier if they had to share them with actual pigeons
Staff pigeonholes would be considerably messier if they had to share them with actual pigeons

When comparing systems, it’s important to consider the benefits each provider’s features offer, whether that’s saving time, a more comprehensive understanding, easier user experience, etc.

So, What’s the Verdict?

Ultimately, you’ll find the best IT solutions for your school by matching up the benefits and features of any system against your school’s needs.

But by considering first whether one central platform or a few bespoke systems is best for you, you’ll be able to make an informed decision that’s best for continuing school improvement.

— Lucas Abbott

Posted 20 September 2023 Share

How to Edit Your Lunch Menu

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Posted 28 August 2023 Share

New Parent Alerts Now Available

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Posted 17 July 2023 Share

How to Set Up Parent Alerts

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Posted 13 June 2023 Share

Why Are School Absences Still So High?

A set of empty chairs in a school room.
Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay

Absence is one of the defining problems of this school year. So much so that it’s consistently made national news. But what are the reasons behind this high absence rate? And more importantly, what can we do about it?

Attendance Hasn’t Recovered Since the Pandemic

Although Covid is a no longer a major topic of conversation, it’s a constant presence in discussions around school attendance. Because it’s a watershed. There’s attendance before Covid and attendance after. And they’re distinctly different.

Graph of school absence rates

The overall absence rate is 7.6% across all state-funded schools (according to government statistics from May 2023). This is compared to 4.7% in the year before the pandemic.

It’s clear that the pandemic has had a massive impact on school attendance. But why is absence still so high two years after the last Covid school closures?

What Reasons Are Given for High Absence Rates?

There are a number of theories being bandied about.

  • Attitudes to attendance have changed since Covid
  • Pupil anxiety is keeping them off school
  • There’s a rise in trauma, deprivation and poverty
  • Parents are keeping children off with minor ailments
  • Parents are working from home on Fridays and keeping their children off
  • Budget cuts have led to reduced pastoral support
  • Local authorities (LAs) aren’t able to keep up with demand

It’s quite a list, spanning from children’s mental health to blaming parents to systemic pressures. Is there one stand-out reason? Or is it that they’re all combining to create one big absence-inducing cocktail? Are some of them even true?

I don’t have the answers to all those questions. And from what I’ve seen, no one else seems to either. With that in mind, all we can do is focus on:

  1. What we know.
  2. What we can act on.

What We Know:

Mental Health Issues are Causing Absences

Studybugs is uniquely placed to offer insight into illness absences, as we collect anonymised illness data from absence reports across the country. Earlier this year, we did some research into mental health absences and found that, as a percentage of overall illness absences, they’re considerably higher than before. In fact, the number of mental health related reports per user is up by 131% since before the pandemic.

What We Know:

Illness Absences are Up on Pre-Covid Levels

Looking at Studybugs data for illness absences, compared to the 2018/19 school year (the last full school year before Covid), there has been:

  • a 46% increase in the number of sick reports per 1,000 users (adjusted for the school year) that mention “a cold”
  • an 89% increase in sick reports that mention “cough”
  • a 43% increase in sick reports that mention “flu”
  • a 17% increase in “headache”
  • a 427% increase in “fatigue”
  • a 325% increase in “stomach bug”

But what about the claim that parents are keeping children off with minor ailments?

Looking at data above, it does seem that cold symptoms make up a higher number of reports than before. We can’t know for sure if this is down to minor ailments or symptoms of more severe illnesses, but it certainly seems clear that parents are reporting more illness.

According to statistics from DfE attendance returns, illness absences are at 3.7% compared to 2.5% pre-pandemic. December’s attendance was particularly affected with several illness peaking at the same time, whereas they’re usually more spread out across the season.

So knowing this, what can we do to address high absence rates?

What We Can Act On:

Helping Pupils with Their Mental Health

Schools and LAs will already have processes for helping pupils suffering with their mental health, but with the high number of cases it can be difficult for even the most equipped places to keep up.

Making sure your processes are efficient and effective is key to ensuring you spot problems early and can support pupils promptly. For example, receiving automatic alerts when mental health key words appear in absence reports could help you identify pupils needing support early.

What We Can Act On:

Coping with Budget Cuts and Understaffing

With too many tasks for too few people, it’s no surprise schools and LAs are feeling under pressure. Using technology can be a low-cost way to plug gaps and help staff have the time they need to make a big impact. Whether that’s automating attendance tasks at school or increasing efficiency at an LA level.

Maximising Attendance is More Important Than Ever

With so many unknowns and elements out of your control, the best thing you can do is make sure you’re doing all you can to address everything that is under your control. This includes:

  • Putting processes in place to support pupils’ mental health
  • Educating parents and pupils on the need for good attendance
  • Effectively monitoring attendance and acting quickly when issues arise
  • Making sure staff are adequately supported in fulfilling their roles around attendance

These are all achievable and actionable things you can do to raise and maintain good attendance.

And if you’re struggling with a certain aspect of attendance, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’ve got any issues or want to talk through your processes with a Studybugs Schools Consultant, just .

— Lucas Abbott

Posted 19 May 2023 Share

Emotionally Based School Avoidance: What Can You Do to Help?

An outline of a teenager deep in thought. Opposite are reminders of school, books, friends, PE equipment and a mobile phone.
Original image by Chen from Pixabay, edited by Studybugs

Sometimes still referred to as school refusal, Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA) is a significant problem that affects many children, families and schools. According to a 2015 study1, approximately 1-2% of the school population are absent due to emotional reasons.

In cases of EBSA, children find the idea of attending school distressing. It could be something social or peer-related, difficulties with the curriculum, a problem with the physical environment, or something external.

This can lead to long absences and therefore a detrimental effect on attainment, social development and mental health, so it’s critical to act early and sensitively to address EBSA.

So, what can you do as a school?

Recognise the Signs Early

EBSA can be difficult to identify because some of the presenting behaviours are similar to other attendance issues, such as truancy. But EBSA differs because of the emotional root of those behaviours, so attempting interventions that don’t address the underlying emotion are likely to be ineffective at best and potentially even deepen anxiety.

Indicators of EBSA include:

  • A change in punctuality or attendance
  • Frequent complaints of illness before or during school
  • Regular absences without indication of anti-social behaviour
  • Reduced engagement in school activities
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of confidence
  • Negative conversations about school
  • A change in behaviour
  • A pattern of absences following weekends and holidays

Recognising EBSA is yet another reason why it’s critical for schools to have robust systems in place for monitoring pupil attendance. You need to make sure you’re able to spot patterns, notify the right staff at the right time, and take appropriate action to address issues early. That’s what Studybugs Attendance is all about.

It’s also important to place a strong emphasis on supporting pupils’ mental health. For this, you might be interested in Studybugs Wellbeing, an early-warning system that notifies you when a pupil is reported absent for a mental health-related reason, such as anxiety, crying or fatigue.

Take Prompt Action

It’s critical to act early if you notice signs of EBSA. The longer it goes on, the more entrenched the difficulties and behaviours become, making it harder to reach a positive outcome.

Cycle of Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours
The Cycle of Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours associated with EBSA.

Once you’re satisfied that EBSA is the cause of absence, you can put together a plan to address it.

Work With the Pupil and Their Caregivers

When you’ve identified behaviours that indicate EBSA, it’s time to speak to the pupil and their parents or guardians to put together a plan to support them. It’s really important that any parents or guardians are supported in their role, as a number of the coping strategies will be influenced by their relationship; for example, secure attachment, awareness of anxiety and factors that trigger it, actively listening and encouraging their child to share.

Parents may also need their own support. They might find it hard to talk about the difficulties they have getting their child to school. Or the EBSA might be triggered by something home-related, which they may find difficult to talk about, like a divorce or separation. As a school, you can help by keeping regular contact with parents and agreeing how and when you’ll keep in touch.

You can also share resources with parents to help them develop their understanding of EBSA and their role in addressing it, either as a preventative measure or when EBSA is identified.

When you come to putting together a plan, make sure it’s agreed with the parents or guardians, the pupil, and that any staff who come into contact with the pupil are aware.

Involve the Child in Their Return to School Approach

Not Fine in School2 champion a child-led support plan to encourage children back to school.

Any approach will need to be tailored to the individual, but might include elements such as a temporarily reduced timetable, remote learning, or an alternative space for the child to work in. Working with the child and their parents or guardians will help you come up with a plan that best suits the child’s needs.

The plan for returning to school should be realistic and flexible. You should also be prepared for difficulties in implementing it and consider where there may be sticking points and what you can do to solve them. You may also consider engaging outside agencies if the problem is particularly engrained or you need additional support.

If there are setbacks, then simply work towards returning to the plan when possible. Each day is a new day. The important thing is to be consistent with what you want to achieve and to be united with the parents; any concerns should be discussed separately and not shared with the child.

Regularly Review Your Plan

Keep on top of how your plan is working, make a note of progress and any setbacks so you know if you need to make any changes. Reviewing should also involve the child and their parents. It’s a good opportunity for you all to celebrate successes and talk through things you’re finding difficult.

Hopefully, the review process will be positive for everyone as you see concrete progress being made!

The Relationship between EBSA and SEND

Not Fine in School2 reference the often overlooked correlation between SEND and anxiety, citing various sources. Autism Spectrum Disorders and Sensory Processing Disorders in particular can lead to anxiety at school, which can in turn lead to EBSA.

It’s important to consider how anxiety might also need addressing alongside SEN in any support plans or EHCPs, particularly if there are ongoing issues with attendance, which could indicate that the child’s needs are not being met.

About This Guide

This guide has been put together by Studybugs to help schools get to grips with the basics of EBSA. We’ve used a number of resources to compile this post; for guidance that digs furthers into the specifics, including sample return to school plans, please see the resources below.

Studybugs enables a whole-school approach to pastoral care. Tools like Studybugs Attendance and Studybugs Wellbeing make it easy to monitor pupil attendance and children’s health and wellbeing, create an action plan, maximise pupil attendance, and ultimately keep children happy, healthy and in school.


1Coping with life by coping with school: School refusal in young people, from Educational Psychology, edited by Tony Cline, Anthea Gulliford and Susan Birch.

2Not Fine in School

Waterford: School Refusal Good Practice Guide for Schools

Hampshire Services: Emotionally Based School Avoidance

Roscommon School Refusal Resource Pack

— Lucas Abbott

Posted 28 February 2023 Share

Mental Health-Related School Absences: The 2022/23 Report

This Children’s Mental Health Week, we’re taking a look at school absences due to mental health.

Before we get into the numbers, just a quick note on the data: the figures used for this report are based on illness absences reported by parents via Studybugs. The data comes directly from parents and has been collected anonymously with their permission. This data is unique to Studybugs and published for the first time here. See ‘Where Does This Data Come From?’ below for more detail.

What we’ve noticed is that the number of mental health reports we’re processing has climbed significantly since pre-Covid times and has remained stubbornly high since.

See for yourself below.

The Overall Picture

Overall Picture

As you can see from the graph above, following the Covid-19 school closures, many more parents have been mentioning mental-health-related terms in their absence reports to schools. The number has more than doubled since before Covid, and remains high this year.

Looking into the data, there are some further interesting points worth calling out.

Key Points

The Story This Year

The Story This Year

Compared to 2018/19 (the last full year before Covid-19 school closures), several symptoms and conditions make up a higher percentage of all illness absences, including anxiety, fatigue, stress and suicidal.

What’s interesting is the contrast with the previous school year (2021/22). In both of these post-Covid years, the total number of mental health illness absences is higher, but there are differences between the specific complaints. The most notable of these is ‘fatigue’, which made up 1.46% of all sick reports last year, but 0.76% this year.

What Does This Mean For Schools, Trusts and Local Authorities?

As with all school absence, it’s important to identify the underlying reasons for absence and to intervene early to address them. With absences due to mental health, consider how your attendance policies address mental health and what you can do to support pupils in this respect. The first step is, of course, identifying where there are problems.

Act Now to Protect Pupils’ Mental Health

That’s where Studybugs can help. As well as tracking symptoms, Studybugs provides tools for schools, trusts and local authorities to address the underlying reasons for absence, including mental health.

We can monitor absences and attendance trends, drawing your attention to any cases you need to investigate. This makes it possible to spot problems early and quickly take action to address them.

To discuss how Studybugs can support your efforts, .

Where Does This Data Come From?

The figures used for this report are based on an analysis of particular trigger terms in absence reports submitted by parents via Studybugs. No school data is included in this analysis.

Over the past few years we’ve processed nearly two million such reports and have built up a unique perspective on the illnesses underpinning school absence.

If you would like to see the (anonymised and aggregated) underlying data behind the figures mentioned above .

— Lucas Abbott

Posted 9 February 2023 Share

How to Use Studybugs to Provide Effective, Targeted Support to Schools

Local authorities and schools (of all types) are expected to have regular “Targeting Support Meetings” at least termly. But with so many schools to meet, it’s hard enough to even fulfil the requirement to meet, let alone identify where support is most needed.

How can you be expected to effectively target support when your picture of schools’ needs is incomplete?

That’s where Studybugs comes in. The tools we provide help you quickly identify where support is most needed, so you can make better use of your resources and give more comprehensive support to schools and pupils.

Here’s a three step guide to using Studybugs to help you target support more effectively.

Step 1: Prioritise Where You Can Make The Biggest Impact

Studybugs has been specifically designed for local authorities to take the work out of data analysis. It gives all the relevant teams information they can act upon.

As well as a complete overview of school attendance, you can quickly drill down into the data to identify the issues where you can provide support. For example, by looking at schools with severely absent pupils.

Targeted support for schools

With the relevant information in hand, you can quickly prioritise which schools you need to work with first and which pupils need the most support.

Step 2: Have Informed Meetings With Schools

Being able to prepare properly ahead of a meeting means you’ll have more targeted, shorter meetings with schools where you can achieve more.

By bringing live attendance data to your termly Targeting Support Meetings, you can share how each school compares with their peers and the reasons for their current attendance position. You can also use our web portal to securely drill down into the attendance data for each school, pupil cohort, and individual pupil right there in the meeting.

All this makes it easier to use these meetings to work collaboratively with school attendance leads and agree what support the LA will provide – leading to a better outcome for the school and also meeting the requirements set out in the DfE guidance.

Step 3: Easily Track Actions and Monitor Improvements

Studybugs provides a secure, central location for local authorities and schools to log their actions. By having a shared platform to coordinate actions – and alert relevant staff (school and LA) when action is needed – early intervention can be taken to nip problems in the bud.

Actions can quickly and easily be monitored by both LA and school teams, giving you a secure place to manage improvement plans and determine their effectiveness.

Plans monitored in Studybugs

It helps you identify what is working well and where changes need to be made, so that when you next meet with a school, you’re both already aware of where you stand, making subsequent meetings quicker and more constructive.

See It to Believe It

Many local authorities have already started using Studybugs and have quickly achieved 100% school participation, so they’re already seeing the benefits. Get in touch to talk through how we can help you make a bigger impact too.

— Lucas Abbott

Posted 18 January 2023 Share

How to Share Studybugs Assistant Links With Your Colleagues

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Posted 13 January 2023 Share

3 Easy Ways to Reduce Paper Use at School

A messy table
Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

It’s unrealistic to expect that a school could go completely paperless. But there are ways to reduce the amount of paper you use, which come with some attractive benefits:

  • Improve organisation and storage
  • Save time on lengthy, paper-based processes
  • Store documents more securely
  • Reduce waste and improve school sustainability
  • Cut costs on paper and printing

So, how can you make it happen?

1: Take School-Parent Communication Online

School-parent communication

Keeping parents engaged in their child’s school life is critical for so many reasons – from promoting good attendance to keeping children happy at school. So it’s vital that you ensure your communication with parents is clear and engaging.

Letters home can get squashed at the bottom of a backpack. Or lost. Then all that time you spent printing and photocopying goes to waste and, worst of all, the message doesn’t even get read.

Bringing your communication online means you can reliably reach parents by sending messages directly to their phone or email. For everything from an absence chaser to a full colour newsletter, you’ll be able to keep parents informed and engaged while reducing the amount of time and resources it takes you to communicate with them.

There are a number of digital messaging platforms you can use for school-parent messaging, with varying features and costs. For example, Studybugs offers a free messaging platform and an optional free parent app. Zero paper, instant notifications, engaged parents.

2: Securely Store Records Online

A screenshot of Studybugs Assistant

We come across a fair number of schools who print off information that could be easily kept online, and in some cases already is.

Your MIS stores a wealth of information from pupil attendance to contact records, although we do appreciate that MISs aren’t always easy to navigate. But that doesn’t mean you need to resort to paper for easy access to the information you need.

It’s definitely worth looking beyond your MIS to other platforms that store and display data in an easily accessible way, without the need to run complicated reports or print anything out.

3: Primary School? It’s Time To Ditch Paper Registers

Taking registers on paper can be wasteful

It’s easy to make the change to online registers. Many MISs let you enter the register directly, but you could make it even easier (and more fun!) for staff and pupils by using Studybugs.

Studybugs Registers allows children to self-register as they enter the classroom. It makes registration fun and super quick. Marks are automatically entered into your MIS and children can choose their lunch with just one tap. These are automatically emailed to your kitchen staff, so there’s no need to print off lunch choices either.

Choosing a lunch option with Studybugs Registers


They may sound like simple steps, but there are still schools who keep processes on paper when they could easily do the same thing digitally.

Studybugs provides all the tools you need to easily manage pupil attendance and registers, messaging parents, children’s health and wellbeing and more completely online. If you don’t use Studybugs already, now to find out how we could help make a positive difference at your school.

— Lucas Abbott

Posted 5 January 2023 Share

Message Personalisation

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Posted 9 December 2022 Share

How to Create and Manage Messaging Groups

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Posted 11 October 2022 Share

Getting Started with Message Templates

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If your organisation is registered with Studybugs (or you’re not sure), please . Otherwise, you can register your school for a free account here.

Posted 5 September 2022 Share

Digging Into the Reasons for Absence

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Posted 24 September 2021 Share

Attendance Coding Changes

For the 2021/22 school year, the DfE has made some changes to its guidance on coding Covid absences. Here we’ll explain these changes and how they’re handled in Studybugs.

Sc and Is are no more (well, almost… )

“Isolation due to a case at school” (Studybugs code Sc) is no longer required.

“Isolation due to a case outside school” (Studybugs code Is) is also no longer a thing, except for students older than 18-and-a-half.

You can still use these codes in Studybugs (as you might be editing old registers) but a warning message now appears. We suggest that if a parent is keeping their child in isolation unnecessarily, you consider using code An (Covid anxiety). This is treated as unauthorised absence.

Sc code warning

Outbreak Management – Ou

The DfE are clearly anticipating that local Directors of Public Health might need to introduce isolation measures as part of local “outbreak management”, as they have introduced a new statutory code for this. In Studybugs we’ve therefore added a new code Ou to handle this case. Hopefully you won’t need it, but in case you do, it’s there.

Statutory Codes

As ever, Studybugs codes map to the correct DfE codes automatically, so you don’t have to worry about this. This works even as the DfE codes change over time, our aim always being to keep things as simple as possible for you.

You can find full details of the Studybugs codes, and how we handle statutory coding, here.

Oh, and if you’d like to have your attendance officer (and any other staff) alerted when the new Covid codes – or the old ones – are used, just Ask a human and we’ll set this up for you.

Posted 8 September 2021 Share

Printing Fire Registers

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Posted 20 July 2021 Share

Call Up Live Attendance Reports

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Posted 29 June 2021 Share

Introducing Parent Time: Video Meetings for Schools and Parents

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Posted 23 June 2021 Share

Topics and Groups in Parent Time

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Posted 10 June 2021 Share

Remote Learner Attendance

By popular demand, today we’re introducing new tools for tracking the ‘virtual’ attendance of remote learners – that is, pupils working from home due to lockdowns.

Central to this is a new set of attendance codes that let you monitor attendance in the same way you do for in-person learners – helping identify safeguarding or other attendance patterns early so you can take prompt action.

Show me the codes already!

There are eight new codes in all, which mirror standard attendance codes and are distinguished by a dark background representing a stylised video-call box.

Studybugs Code Label
- Remote learner – no mark
/ Remote learner – present
N Remote learner – absent, reason unknown
O Remote learner – other unauthorised absence
I Remote learner – ill
Co Remote learner – confirmed case of Covid-19
M Remote learner – medical appointment
C Remote learner – other authorised absence

As with our other Covid-19 attendance codes, the remote learner codes let schools simply record reality, without having to worry continually about the DfE’s latest statutory reporting policies. All the new attendance codes are automatically handled in the correct way (which currently means they’ll be entered in your MIS as “X” codes).

How do I get going?

Studybugs Registers is the easiest way to get started.

First, bulk mark all remote learners with the - code (email us and we’ll do this for you). Then, when teachers open up their register, they simply need to tap on each child’s face to mark them as present or absent. Remote learners will be shown in a stylised video-call box to differentiate from in-person learners. Children who are expected in school will automatically be marked with codes / or N, and those expected remotely will be marked / or N. That’s it!

Classes and bubbles can be set up however you like – remote-learner-only classes, or combined in-person and remote classes, depending on how your teachers will be teaching.

Remote Learners
Remote and on-site learners in Studybugs Registers

What happens to absence reports from parents?

Absence reports will automatically be entered as an I for remote learners, so you can continue to track illness absence. Encourage your parents to continue reporting absence normally so you can build the picture of a child’s engagement with remote learning.

What about reporting?

The remote learner codes are supported in all existing attendance alerts. For example, you can receive a daily or weekly breakdown of remote learners who didn’t attend, or who are a confirmed case of Covid-19 as required for the DfE’s educational setting status form. and we can set this up for you.

The new codes require Studybugs Attendance. Register-taking for teachers requires Studybugs Registers.

As always, what you think.

Posted 13 January 2021 Share

How to Use Studybugs Registers Safely During Covid-19

Studybugs Registers

When we first launched our groundbreaking supervised self-registration system, we weren’t anticipating a global pandemic. Thankfully, it’s really easy to comply with the government guidelines and make everyone feel safe and comfortable while using Studybugs Registers. It just takes a few small adjustments to the regular process.

Here are the two adapted approaches we’re seeing our schools take:

1. Children self-register with additional hygiene measures

Schools can still have children self-register and adhere to the guidelines. Younger children in particular are not necessarily expected to socially distance within their own bubble, but you can encourage children to use hand gel before tapping in and to keep their distance if they’re waiting to register.

2. Teachers tap in for children

If you’d rather avoid children touching the same surfaces, you could have staff register the children as they enter the classroom. This is still considerably quicker than calling out names the old way. You could even make a game of it — we’ve heard of teachers making it fun by asking children which part of their face they should tap to register them today... “today, I will touch your nose!”

Keyboard shortcuts for Studybugs Registers
Teachers can also use keyboard shortcuts if they prefer.

The approach you choose will, of course, depend on what’s right for your school and your pupils. It may even be that you take a different approach for different year groups, in line with their ability to maintain distance and avoid contact.

The choice is yours, but you certainly don’t need to let Covid-19 get in the way of more efficient registrations! In fact, increasing your learning time each day is doubly important now, given the interruptions to learning this year. It’s just one of the reasons hundreds of primary schools across the country use Studybugs Registers every day.

Posted 11 November 2020 Share

Covid-19 Tracking for Your School

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If your organisation is registered with Studybugs (or you’re not sure), please . Otherwise, you can register your school for a free account here.

Posted 3 September 2020 Share

Managing Bubble Registers

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Posted 26 June 2020 Share

Managing attendance from 1 June

Please sign in with your school, trust or local authority staff account to see this blog post.

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If your organisation is registered with Studybugs (or you’re not sure), please . Otherwise, you can register your school for a free account here.

Posted 22 May 2020 Share

How Studybugs can help you reach parents during lockdown

Studybugs Messages

We’ve noticed a lot of schools making good use of our free Messages add-on during the lockdown to reach pupils and parents, send work home and check up on children’s wellbeing.

We’re really pleased to see this, so to help all Studybugs schools stay connected to pupils and parents, we’ve put together our best tips to make the most of Studybugs Messages.

1. Use Studybugs to check on children’s wellbeing

Learning from home is going to be an unusual experience for all pupils. Whether you’re worried about vulnerable children or just want to check in with everyone, it’s easy to keep in touch with parents using Studybugs.

As long as a parent or carer has a Studybugs account or an email address in your MIS, you’ll be able to reach them via Studybugs. Parents will receive messages directly to their app or via email. You’ll also see read receipts, so you can be sure a parent has got your message.

2. Create bespoke messaging groups

Studybugs Messages Key Workers

We automatically pick up on classes and year groups from your MIS, but we can also set up specific groups to make it easy to get messages out to the right parents.

Many schools have created bespoke messaging groups such as “Key Worker Parents” or “Free School Meals”, so they can keep in touch with the families they need to most at this time.

There are two ways to create a bespoke group in Studybugs.

Option 1

You can create a custom group in your MIS with the parents you’d like to message. Let us know when you’ve done this and we’ll make it appear in Studybugs for you. It’ll then update automatically whenever you make any changes to the original group in your MIS.

Option 2

We can create a group for you. To do this, you’ll just need to send us over the list of names. You’ll then need to let us know about any future changes to the group, so we can update it.

3. Give teachers access to Messages

Many schools have chosen to give their teachers access to Messages so they can contact their classes directly. It’s a straightforward and direct way for class teachers to check in with parents and pupils, send work out and offer help for pupils who are learning at home. and we can set this up for you.

4. Send work home as attachments

You can send work packs home as attachments or send out links to online lessons and learning tools. Messaging a specific class is easy — just type the class name into the “To” box.

Studybugs Messages with files

5. Contact us when you need help

As always, we’re available throughout the school day (and beyond!) to help you create messaging groups, set up new staff members, and answer any questions you may have about using Studybugs. at any time and we’ll get back to you as quickly as we can.

When schools reopen, we’ll be ready for normal service to resume. But until then, it’s great to see so many schools using Studybugs Messages.

Don’t yet have a Studybugs school account?

If you’d like to start using Studybugs in your school to communicate with parents for free, register here.

— Lucas Abbott

Posted 6 May 2020 Share

Coronavirus Symptom-Tracking

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, we would like to ask you to keep reporting your child’s symptoms via Studybugs, even through school closures.

In the Studybugs app, you just need to open the family menu (top-right), select a child, then report them as ill or fine.

Reporting coronavirus symptoms in the Studybugs app

Make sure you untick the box if they’re not going to be absent from school. The message won’t go to your child’s school (please ignore if it says they’ll be notified – we’ll be removing this soon).

In the Studybugs website, just follow the prompts. Report now

What about the rest of my household?

You can post your own symptoms via Studybugs in the same way as for your child.

We don’t currently offer a way for you to report for anyone other than you and your children. Your partner, or any other adult member of your household, can register with Studybugs and report for themselves (but only one of you should add your children and report for them).

This is something we hope to streamline over the coming weeks.

What if we’re fine?

It’s really important for researchers to know this too – just as important as knowing your symptoms, in fact. If you or your child don’t have any symptoms, you can just say you’re fine.

How often should I report?

If you can report daily, that’s great. After your first report we’ll email you a daily reminder so you don’t need to remember (you can opt out of this if you like). If you miss a report or two though, not to worry – reports whenever you remember are very useful too.

Could you make it quicker to report each day?

We’re working hard to adapt and streamline Studybugs for coronavirus symptom-tracking, and lots of improvements are on the way. We’re also working with a team of epidemiologists to collect further data that will be useful to researchers. If you’re registered with Studybugs, we’ll keep you posted as we roll out updates over the comings days and weeks.

Meanwhile we very much welcome your .

What’s this for?

All symptom information is first completely anonymised, before being made available to researchers (in various organisations including Public Health England) working on coronavirus. Amongst other things, it will help shed light on the effectiveness of school closures, and help inform the decision as to when schools should re-open.

The anonymised symptom information is also shown on our “What’s Going Around” map which you’ll see when you’re signed in to our website.

Bugs map

Why is Studybugs doing this?

Studybugs was started back in 2014 to track the spread of illness and help keep children healthy and in school. So this is what we do. We’re funded by government grants and by schools, and we don’t make any money from data (the anonymised data we collect is available free of charge under an open data licence) or have any plans to introduce advertising. The Studybugs platform is available free of charge to all, for ever.

We’re committed to ensuring the data we’re collecting, with your help, is put to good use and can make a positive difference in tackling the pandemic.

Thanks for your support.

— The Studybugs public health team

Posted 23 March 2020 Share

Opt in now for free early access to Studybugs Wellbeing

Please sign in with your school, trust or local authority staff account to see this blog post.

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If your organisation is registered with Studybugs (or you’re not sure), please . Otherwise, you can register your school for a free account here.

Posted 10 March 2020 Share

A Message About Messages

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Posted 6 February 2020 Share

5 Things You Can Do With Studybugs Assistant

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If your organisation is registered with Studybugs (or you’re not sure), please . Otherwise, you can register your school for a free account here.

Posted 25 November 2019 Share

How Long Do You Spend Taking the Register?

Studybugs Registers

When I was at school, we used to line up outside the classroom at 8.45am and wait for our teacher to let us in.

We’d then spend some time taking our seats and chatting, before our teacher would quieten us down to take the register. By the time that was done, it would be gone 9am and break time would already be less than an hour away.

It all seemed very normal to me, as I’m sure it would to many others. But when I started working for Studybugs, I realised just how much time it wasted every single day. How unnecessarily long the whole registration process used to be. Because I found out there’s a better way.

Get Kids to Register Themselves as They Enter the Classroom

You see, Studybugs has developed a very smart supervised self-registration service for schools. With Studybugs Registers, kids simply arrive, pop their coat on their peg, put their book bag away and tap the screen to mark themselves present.

What my teachers struggled to do in 15 minutes, schools can now do in under 4. With kids self-registering under supervision as they come in, you save all the time that was previously wasted waiting for kids to sit down, getting them settled, and calling out,

  • “Jack.”
  • “Here, sir.”
  • “Jasmine… Jasmine? Has someone seen Jasmine today?”

No, sir. Jasmine isn’t in today. And in a Studybugs school, we’d know that already, because Jasmine’s parents would already have reported her absence using the Studybugs app.

But anyway, where was I going with this? Ah yes, saving time…

Gain 23 Minutes of Teaching Time Every Day

Imagine how quickly you could start the day if you didn’t have to take the register manually after the kids have come in. Imagine being able to start your day as soon as they’ve walked through the door. Oh, and if your pupils make lunch choices every morning, they can do that on the way into the classroom too.

It’s easy for kids to mark themselves in and make their lunch choice in seconds.

When we first introduced Registers, we sat in and timed actual registration sessions in schools to see how effective it was. We found that, on average, teachers gained 23 minutes of teaching time every day. That’s an extra three weeks every year.

See How Much Time You Could Save When Taking Registers

But that’s enough from me. Try out our calculator to see for yourself how much time you could save by using Studybugs Registers.

Want to Find Out More?

We’d love to show you how it works in person.

— Lucas Abbott

Posted 11 October 2019 Share

A Busy Summer at Studybugs

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If your organisation is registered with Studybugs (or you’re not sure), please . Otherwise, you can register your school for a free account here.

Posted 9 September 2019 Share

4 Tips for a Happy, Healthy Start to the School Year

Apple on pile of books
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

Whether they’re moving up a year or moving school altogether, it’s natural for kids – and parents! – to feel anxious about the change a new school year brings. But with a little organisation, you can help your child make their best possible start to the year.

Here are 4 tips to help your child with the change.

  1. Plan ahead

    A lot of the anxiety children feel about change comes from uncertainty. But you can help your child feel confident by talking things through with them ahead of time.

    Set aside time in the evenings to talk through their timetable or look at new homework. Prepare uniforms, lunches, textbooks and PE kits the night before they’re needed to avoid any last-minute stresses. And if they’re moving school, you could also practice the new journey to school together.

  2. Get into a routine

    Getting into a routine is a great way to build healthy habits. It also helps your child feel like they have control over important parts of their day. So encourage your child to wake up with plenty of time before school. Try to eat together in the evenings and chat about their day. And set a reasonable bedtime, so your child can recharge for the next day.

  3. Be positive

    Your child could have lots of conflicting feelings about starting the new year. You can help put their mind at rest by being positive about the changes. If they’re nervous, you can also reassure them that lots of other children will feel the same way.

  4. Don’t push too hard

    Once school starts, simply be there to talk if they want to share. But it’s ok if they’re not ready straight away. Try to avoid asking if they’ve made friends yet, or if they’re settling in well, as it might make them feel like they’re taking longer than other people. Instead, ask what they did at lunchtime or what they learnt about in one of their lessons.

Of course, the most important thing is just to be there for your child any way you can. Some kids will find it easy, some a lot harder, but with time, we hope every child will come to really enjoy their time in school this year. So from everyone here at Studybugs, we wish you and your child a very happy, healthy new school year.

Posted 5 September 2019 Share

Does Your Child Suffer from Asthma?

If you use the Studybugs app and your child suffers from asthma, researchers at Brighton & Sussex Medical School (BSMS) and the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital need your help!

They’re conducting a study looking at innovative ways to improve management of childhood asthma, and are looking to recruit parents – and school staff – to take part.

Each year many children end up in hospital with acute asthma attacks and some of them will die of this each year. Most attacks are preventable with the right management. The Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital is working closely with Studybugs and this study is part of a broader project called “Inspire” which you can read about here.

Participation involves a 30-minute interview (on the phone or in person) exploring use of the app for health management purposes.

The researchers are also interested in speaking with school staff who are familiar with the Studybugs system (but don’t necessarily have children with asthma).

If you’d be willing to take part, please let us know and we’ll put you in touch with the research team.

Posted 14 July 2017 Share

Keeping Children with Asthma Healthy and in School

What if there was a way to improve the health of children with asthma and reduce the number of days they have to miss of school? Well, the ‘Inspire’ project (everychildisdifferent.org/inspire), officially launched today, aims to do just that.

The project is a collaboration between the Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS), the Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, Brighton & Hove City Council, public health specialists EpiConcept, and Studybugs.

The UK has among the highest prevalence rates of asthma symptoms in children worldwide, with on average three children with asthma in every classroom. Every year more than one in five children misses school due to asthma-like illness, and children with severe asthma may miss many weeks of vital education.

Professor Somnath Mukhopadhyay, leading the project for BSMS, said: “The connection between the health of children and school attainment is well documented. Not only are these children missing out on the quality of life they deserve, but their asthma has a real knock-on effect, impacting on their education, and possibly even their future careers.”

Inspire will involve collecting data on asthma-related illnesses via the Studybugs app, and delivering tailored advice to improve treatment. We’re currently working hard on various enhancements to the app to make this possible. Meanwhile we’re inviting schools who haven’t already done so to register for the free version of Studybugs and invite parents to download the free app.

Schools and parents already registered with Studybugs will automatically benefit from the project and don’t need to do anything extra to take part.

Inspire website
To find out more, visit the project website everychildisdifferent.org/inspire.
Posted 27 June 2016 Share

Studybugs in Brighton & Hove

The Director of Public Health, Dr Tom Scanlon, and his team at Brighton & Hove City Council have just published their annual report, which this year focuses on social media. It’s an enjoyable read/watch and we’d recommend it to anyone interested in public health.

We’re delighted to be part of the report – see below.

Building on our excellent take-up in Brighton & Hove, we’re now working with the City Council and other local public health organisations on some exciting developments in children’s health – watch this space!

Studybugs in Brighton & Hove
Studybugs in Brighton & Hove (click to view PDF) – note that the statistics shown are just for Brighton & Hove, and there are many more people using Studybugs across the UK.
Posted 12 May 2016 Share

We are Studybugs

We’re excited to announce we now have a new name: we are Studybugs.

When we started out a couple of years ago, we set out to build a neat little social media tool for seeing what illnesses are going around, and the name ‘Sickly’ seemed to be suitably quirky. But since then we’ve grown into something much bigger, with a powerful online system now used by many thousands of people, that aims to improve children’s health and – ultimately – achievement at school.

We feel the name Studybugs fits much better with where we are now and where we’re heading. It reflects both the children – the “study bugs” (preferably studying hard rather than being sick!) – and our growing work in public health and the “study of bugs”. It’s appropriate, positive and distinctive, plus it leaves options open for future development of our apps and services.

We’re excited for what the future holds as we continue on our journey as Studybugs!

We hope you like the new name. If you’ve any comments, good or bad, please do send us a note at feedback@studybugs.com – we’d love to hear from you.

P.S. If you’re already a user of Sickly, there’s nothing you need to do. The old Sickly apps continue to work as before and links automatically redirect to our new website studybugs.com. Oh, and on the legal side of things, we’re the same company as before, just with a different name, so our commitments to our customers, users and partners haven’t changed.

Posted 4 April 2016 Share