Keeping young people safe at school and improving their life chances
Igraine Rhodes, Head of Programmes at the EEF, and Sarah Fullick, Head of Programmes at the YEF, explain why the two organisations are coming together to learn how to improve school attendance and reduce exclusion.
Through the pandemic, children experienced unprecedented disruption to their education. And things aren’t going back to normal, with Ofsted reporting that schools have seen higher levels of persistent absence since Autumn 2021 – at least in part because repeated periods of isolation through national lockdowns have led some children to become disconnected from school.
We know that being away from school not only limits a child’s ability to succeed academically, but also puts them at risk of criminal exploitation or being trapped in dangerous home environments. But while it’s clear that school attendance is critical both to a child’s safety and achievement, we just don’t know what works best to keep children in class. That’s why the EEF and Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) have come together to fund programmes that aim to improve attendance and prevent exclusions.
There’s already some indication that different approaches can help to keep children in school. In a review of 72 studies, we have identified some examples of things that have helped to boost children’s attendance at school. In one study, attendance was boosted when parents or carers were sent ‘nudge’ letters, which highlighted how important it is that their child is in school (both to the school community and to their learning). Other research looked at ways of addressing the reasons why pupils are absent. In one case, assigning a social worker to first understand the causes of absence from school and then offer support to the child was shown to help keep young people in education.
The problem is that, even though there is some evidence about how to support attendance at school, the studies EEF looked at are still weak. And there are very few examples of research that took place in either English or Welsh schools, which makes it difficult for us to know how well the approaches they examined would work in our contexts. Simply put, we just don’t know enough about how best to keep children from missing school, whether that’s because of absence or exclusion.
That’s why our two organisations have partnered on this funding round, which opens today. Together, we will find, fund, and evaluate programmes and practices in England and Wales that could help to make sure children attend, engage with, and remain in school or college. We’ll work with schools, charities or other organisations that are already running promising programmes. Rather than starting from scratch, we want to build on some of the great programmes and practices that are already out there and that have an evidence base for us to build on. That’s why we’re particularly interested in projects that involve anti-bullying programmes, social and emotional learning, behaviour management and targeted family engagement, which are all likely to make a difference.
If you want to find out more about to apply, visit EEF’s website and submit your application form by 11pm on Monday 16 May 2022. By working together to find out how best to support children, we can make sure that we’re giving young people the best possible chance of safe, happy and successful futures.
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