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The Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) and Education Endowment Fund (EEF) launch a new, joint grant round to improve attendance at school


  • New evidence review looks at findings from 72 studies that aim to improve pupils’ school attendance.
  • Some evidence of promise for strategies that focus on parental engagement and addressing the cause of persistent absence.
  • But not enough evidence to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of several different approaches.
  • EEF partnering with YEF to address this evidence gap by finding, funding and trialling different approaches to improve attendance and reduce exclusions.

Sending parents of students who are persistently absent personalised letters or texts can help improve attendance, according to a new evidence review published by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) today.

The new report looks at the findings from 72 studies that aim to improve pupils’ school attendance. The study looks at the evidence for eight different approaches – including parental engagement, incentives and disincentives and mentoring – to identify strategies that could help boost attendance.

The review found some evidence of promise for approaches that focused on engaging with parents. In one study with a positive impact on attendance, parents were sent ‘nudge’ letters, which outlined the importance of their child’s attendance to learning and the school community.

Similarly, the review also found positive impacts for responsive approaches, where schools aim to address the individual causes behind a pupils’ persistence absence. One example highlighted in the report is where a social worker identifies barriers to attendance and intervenes to overcome them. This could mean assigning an older “walking buddy” for a pupil with high absences due to transport issues.

But overall, the review found that the evidence on how to improve attendance is weak, with very few studies taking place in English schools, and was unable to draw conclusions on the effectiveness of several approaches.

We know that school absenteeism – missed attendance as well as fixed and permanent exclusion – not only impacts on students’ attainment, but also on the likelihood of them becoming involved in violence and crime. It is also likely that many students with poor attendance or those being excluded from school are from marginalised or vulnerable backgrounds, including those eligible for Pupil Premium funding.

There’s a clear need to find out more about how we can reduce absenteeism. The EEF has partnered with the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) to build evidence of what works in improving attendance and reducing exclusions. Their new funding round, which opens today, will find, fund, and evaluate programmes and practices in England and Wales that could both keep children safe from involvement in violence and improve academic attainment, by ensuring they attend, positively engage with, and remain in school/college.

The two organisations are seeking applications from schools, charities or other organisations with promising initiatives that could improve attendance and reduce exclusions. They are keen to fund trials of approaches in several priority areas, including anti-bullying, social and emotional learning and targeted family engagement. Applications for funding open today and will close on Monday 16 May 2022.

Professor Becky Francis, CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), said:

“We know that pupils who are persistently absent from school are less like to achieve well academically. But as today’s new evidence review shows, we know much less about the best ways to improve attendance. While the research finds some positive impacts for approaches like engaging with parents and addressing the individual needs of pupils, overall, the evidence on what works for reducing absenteeism is weak.

“Teachers deserve much clearer picture of how best to support their pupils who are persistently absent. Our new funding round with the Youth Endowment Fund will help fill some of these evidence gaps, by identifying and evaluating promising interventions, programmes, and approaches.”

Jon Yates, Executive Director of the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF), said:

“Being away from school not only limits a child’s ability to succeed academically, but also puts them at risk of criminal exploitation or trapped in dangerous home environments. Absences from school means that children can’t receive the support they might need from their teachers or pastoral staff, which could help to keep them from harm. Simply put, to keep children safe, we need to know how best to keep them in school.

“Through this grant round, in partnership with the Education Endowment Foundation, we’ll fund and evaluate projects that will find the best ways to improve attendance and reduce exclusion for some of the children most at-risk of violence across England and Wales. This is important, because by learning about what works, we’ll be able to make sure children get the support they need to keep safe from violence.”