Driving school attendance through the National Tutoring Programme

The problem…

  • In Autumn 2020, over 30,000 additional pupils were absent more often than they were present (severely absent).
  • In total, during the first term back after the pandemic, 93,514 pupils (more than 1 in 80 pupils) were severely absent. This compares with 60,244 pupils who were severely absent in the same term in 2019.11 This is a 54.7% increase in the cohort of pupils who are severely absent and equates to an additional 33,270 pupils.
  • The Timpson Review into School Exclusion found every extra percentage point of school sessions missed due to unauthorised absence was associated with a one percentage point increase in the likelihood of permanent exclusion.
  • During successive lockdowns across 2020-21, charities and organisations working with young people have warned that children who have been missing from formal education settings have become vulnerable to local gangs or dangerous home environments.
  • We need to act now to help them catch up with missed education: kids can’t catch up if they don’t show up.

The solution…

  • The Department for Education has committed approximately £3billion in ‘catch up’ funding for children who have missed out on education with a focus on lost learning. This includes approximately £1billion over three years for a National Tutoring Programme (NTP) to provide small-class tutoring for children from disadvantage backgrounds.
  • A positive, ready-made announcement: The department could amend the existing NTP programme to address absence. We believe there is a gap in provision for young people most likely to dis-engage from education. This small scale tutoring won’t help children who are regularly missing from the classroom.
  • There is a strong existing evidence base for key workers engaging with families who need the most support, and this should be replicated to reduce the absence rate following the pandemic.
  • School-Home Support (SHS) has adopted the key worker model directly to improve school attendance. SHS employs ‘practitioners’ to work with families on addressing the underlying causes of poor school attendance. Demand for its services increased four-fold in 2020.
  • 71% of pupils in mainstream schools improving their attendance (equivalent to 14 extra days in school) and 89% in alternative educational settings seeing improved attendance (equivalent to 18 extra days in school).
  • The government should appoint 2,000 school attendance mentors to work with children who are persistently absent from school and alternative provision. At a unit cost of £40,000 plus infrastructure costs, it is likely to require funding of almost £100m per year for a period of three years.

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