Education Endowment Foundation:Supporting school attendance

Supporting school attendance

Build, communicate, and deliver an attendance strategy.

Absence, and particularly persistent absence, is an immediate challenge facing schools up and down the country. In 2022 – 23, just over one in five pupils missed 10% or more of their schooling. Pupils from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds were nearly twice as likely to be persistently absent than their classmates. 

With clear links between poor attendance and poor attainment and behaviour, tackling persistent absence is an important part of improving outcomes for all pupils.

But the factors that contribute to poor attendance are complex. Pupils may not attend school because they are disengaged, or because of anxiety, bullying, or other challenges. Recent data suggests there is also a relationship between absence and distance from school.

What does the evidence tell us about the best ways to improve attendance?

In 2022, we conducted a rapid evidence review of the existing international research on interventions that aim to improve attendance, as well as the characteristics of these interventions.

It found that:

  • Schools in England use a wide variety of strategies to improve pupil attendance.
  • There is some evidence of promise for parental engagement approaches and responsive interventions that meet the individual needs of the pupils.
  • But overall, the evidence on the effectiveness of different approaches is weak, with very few high quality studies taking place in English schools.
  • The interventions that show promise take a holistic approach in understanding pupils and their specific need, and which address the specific barriers to attendance that have been identified. For example, one programme found to have a positive impact on attendance used several different approaches depending on the needs of pupils, including a team to monitor and track attendance, parental communication, and motivation systems.

Starting points for understanding absence in your school:

  • Have you got a complete set of attendance data and levels of persistent absence?
  • Who is involved in monitoring and reviewing attendance data to identify patterns and priorities?
  • Are there robust processes in place for staff to report on partial absences during the school day?
  • How are you collecting diagnostic data to understand the reasons for persistent absence?
  • Have you identified if external support from other agencies is required and appropriate?
  • How will your strategy be managed and how is impact monitored?

This resource is divided into six themes, each with an exploration of the evidence base and further reading from schools exemplifying approaches to strengthen attendance.

A tool to support school leaders and attendance teams in reflection and planning around these themes can be accessed here:

What else is the EEF doing on school attendance?

To help build the evidence base of what we know about tackling persistent absence, we’ve commissioned several trials of different approaches.