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Every Minute Counts

I am concerned about the number of students who are regularly late for school, and we also have many who are missing significant chunks of time each week. I am sure it is never the intent at the start of anyone’s day but I felt sharing research on the impacts of tardiness may provide added motivation to rethink how your morning routine unfolds. The following advice is adapted from an article published recently and clearly explains how frequent lateness to school impacts on our children’s wellbeing and their learning.

We all run late sometimes. For your child, arriving late to school occasionally won’t cause major disruption. Inevitably, children will feel sick or tired some mornings, or other situations will prevent them from being on time. But chronic frequent lateness eventually takes its toll on a child’s overall educational experience. According to the national initiative Attendance Works, missing just 10 percent of the school year in the early grades causes many students to struggle in Primary School, and lateness in later grades is associated with increased failure and dropout rates. Fortunately, parents can help prevent tardiness from becoming frequent enough to negatively impact their child’s school life.

Disrupted Routines

One of the most important aspects of school is that it is organized, scheduled and predictable. Students depend on the structure of the day. They know where they have to be and when. They know the main purpose for being in school is to learn and that routines are in place precisely to help them focus on that learning. When students are repeatedly tardy, these routines are disrupted. Children who are often late have trouble settling in and mastering routines. Tardiness can throw off their whole morning or even their day, especially if the late commute to school was stressful.

Social Criticism

The social experience has a powerful impact on a child’s feelings about school and his or her ability to be academically successful. When a child continuously shows up late to class, other students are distracted. Attention is drawn away from the teacher or assignment and toward the child who has just arrived. Over time, classmates may begin to criticize this child, affecting how they feel about themselves in school.

During adolescence, children are especially conscious of fitting in and being accepted by peers. If your child is repeatedly tardy, they may become a target or outcast over time, and negative peer interactions can hurt their ability to concentrate on learning. According to the Encyclopedia of Children’s Health, children with steady friendships throughout the school year enjoy school more, and children who can make new friends tend to perform better academically.

Low Achievement

Perform Well, a nonprofit policy research and educational organization, reports that frequent tardiness is associated with lower grades and lower scores on standardized tests. It is also linked to low graduation rates.  In Primary classrooms, particularly Stage 1, morning routines are critical to daily lessons. Warm-up activities may introduce topics that will be learned later in the day, or review work offers students an opportunity to review previously learned skills. The table below highlights the exponential effect of why tardiness impacts learning.

(Table sourced from Keithlyn Mateo, 2018)


Part of your child’s education is learning to be responsible. The school experience teaches children how to meet expectations. They learn to follow schedules, obey rules, complete assignments and keep track of their materials. Learning responsibility in school is a precursor to functioning in the working world, as noted by William Kirby in his 2010 article School Attendance Tied to Academic Success.

Attendance is one of the ways children show they can meet their obligations. In many cases, a child’s attendance depends on his parents’ ability to help him be on time. Parents can teach their children organizational techniques that will help them get out of the house faster, such as packing their bags and laying out their clothes the night before school. But parents who drive their children must also remember to be punctual and responsible. After all, you are the primary role model.

The Impact on Other Students

With tardy students entering the school day at abnormal times, teachers must divert their attention away from regular teaching time. This disruption two or three times each morning quickly builds to 10 to 15 minutes of learning time lost, not acknowledging the time some students will take to refocus on tasks following the disruptions. Gottfried’s 2014 study concluded that tardiness not only impacts the learning of the late student, but also other students in the same class. 

Some Strategies to ensure your child arrives on time:

  • Try to ensure set times for bed and waking each day. Student’s bodies learn to adapt their sleep cycles to regular routines, far easier than times constantly changing. Such patterns can also improve overall sleep. Remember children ideally need between 8 to 10 hours sleep each night.
  • Organise things the night before. Parents can teach their children organizational techniques that will help them get out of the house faster, such as packing their bags and laying out their clothes the night before school. Giving them a timetable of their day allows them to take check they have all items they require.
  • Allow time for the morning to unfold at a calm pace. Ensure your child has time to properly wake before starting the demands of eating breakfast and getting dressed. It is better for a child to wake 15 minutes earlier than to have them experience anxiety or frustration over being rushed to get ready. The mood of the morning sets the tone for the day—we want your mornings to stay in green zone. We acknowledge some days are harder than others, for all of us, but allowing extra time allows for such days to be less stressful.
  • Avoid any use of television or technology until your child is organised and ready to leave. It may be worth having a small reward (doing something quiet that they enjoy) if they can organise themselves to be ready ahead of time.
  • Model responsible behaviours. As you are their primary role model we ask that you model skills of organisation and responsibility, showing them that punctuality is important.

(“Effects Of Tardiness On Your Child’s Education” 2016)

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