Attitudes towards Addressing Medical Absenteeism of Students: A Qualitative Study among Principals and Special Education Needs Coordinators in Dutch Secondary Schools

Yvonne Vanneste*, Marlou van de Loo, Frans Feron, Carin Rots-de Vries, Ien van de Goor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background Reducing school absenteeism benefits the health and educational opportunities of young people. The Dutch intervention Medical Advice for Sick-reported Students (abbreviated as MASS) was developed to address school absenteeism due to sickness reporting, also called medical absenteeism. This study is part of a research project on the effectiveness of MASS and explores factors that influence the implementation and dissemination of the intervention, from schools' perspectives. The research questions include reasons schools have to implement MASS, their experiences in the implementation of MASS and their views on what is needed to ensure sustainable implementation. Methods A qualitative research method was used. Semi-structured interviews were held with nine principals and eight special education needs coordinators, working in nine secondary schools that apply MASS. Inductive content analysis was carried out. Findings The main reasons for schools to address medical absenteeism were their concerns about students' well-being and future prospects and their wish to share these concerns with students' parents. Participants also mentioned the wish to raise the threshold for reporting sick. According to the participants, MASS makes it easier for teachers to enter into conversation with students and their parents about medical absence. MASS prevents damage to the relationship with parents and medical problems being missed. In implementing MASS the main obstacles are teachers' dialogue about medical absence with students and their parents, teachers' follow-up of the feedback of the youth health care physicians (YHCPs), and correct registration. The participants were convinced that MASS also improves collaboration with parents regarding the optimization of care for students. Conclusions MASS allows schools to identify students at risk of dropout at an early stage and to optimise guidance of these students. The intervention matches schools' need to address medical absenteeism by providing a clear framework, an approach from concern rather than control, and socio-medical expertise through the collaboration with YHCPs. MASS can support schools to maximize the number of students graduating and to improve parental involvement in school. These outcomes may help to put the subject of addressing medical absenteeism on the agenda of all schools, and contribute to prioritization, support adoption and secure sustainable implementation and dissemination of MASS.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0148427
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2016


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