ASCL comment on EEF review of school attendance strategies

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the review by the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) of approaches to improving pupils’ school attendance.
“The pupils most likely to be absent from school are often those who are vulnerable and struggle the most in education. Improving their attendance is vital to improving their outcomes and life chances. Schools work hard to do that already, but the EEF’s review shows there isn’t enough firm evidence available to them about what approaches work, and this is clearly a gap that needs to be filled. We welcome the EEF’s plan to evaluate initiatives which improve attendance and reduce exclusions. The results could be of great value.
“However, this issue is not only about the approaches that are used, it is also about the resources that are available. Over the past decade, central government has decimated the funding for local authority education support services, reducing the capacity of these services to support pupils and parents and to tackle persistent absence. At the same time, it has squeezed school funding, making it harder for schools to provide pastoral support for pupils who are facing challenges and barriers.
“The government is currently placing a big focus on improving attendance, particularly in the wake of the Covid pandemic, and it is right to do so. But it must recognise that effective and sustainable intervention on a national scale requires an appropriate level of investment.”