Education Endowment Foundation:School choices round: Researching school choices that create a safe, positive place to learn through improving attendance and reducing exclusions

School choices round: Researching school choices that create a safe, positive place to learn through improving attendance and reducing exclusions

A safe, positive place to learn: improving attendance and reducing exclusions

New funding round exploring what works to improve attendance and reduce exclusions.

The Education Endowment Foundation’s (EEF) mission is to break the link between family income and educational achievement. The Youth Endowment Fund’s (YEF) mission is to prevent children and young people becoming involved in violence. 

We’ve come together to jointly fund a School Choices round for research organisations and / or teams to build evidence of what works to improve attendance and reduce exclusions.

The second round of School Choices funding is now open for applications. The deadline for applications is Tuesday, 31st May 2022.

What is the purpose of this funding? 

We know that school absence – 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.

What’s less clear is the evidence around practice on what works to improve attendance and reduce exclusions. Our scoping work highlights that: 

  • Schools currently use a variety of practices to monitor attendance, address issues around attendance and disruptive behaviour, and manage exclusions. 
  • School staff and other stakeholders feel that there is often not sufficient evidence or guidance materials to support school leaders in making these choices.

Through this round, we are looking to bridge this knowledge gap by better understanding the choices School leaders make about school-wide practices and approaches that are intended to produce positive outcomes for pupils.

At a high level, the aim of School Choices research is to produce causal evidence about the impact of different school-level approaches and policies on outcomes of interest, with particular attention to impact on pupils from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds.

This funding round is accessible to research organisations and/​or teams interested in producing studies that aim to provide schools with evidence to inform their decision-making around everyday practices and policies that are not captured by manualised interventions with external training, support or delivery, for example comparing the impact of a two-year or three-year Key Stage 4.

What research questions should the research focus on? 

  • Attendance monitoring and response systems, including parent communication, parent engagement, use of attendance officers, penalties for poor attendance, attendance awards and incentives
  • Behaviour management approaches and policies, including around bullying
  • Approaches to social and emotional learning
  • Internal alternative provision, such as the use of in-school inclusion units and nurture groups

We have identified some priority research questions that we are particularly keen to fund, which are provided below. However, we are not limiting funding to these questions and are interested in receiving proposals on other approaches that fit the scope of the round. 

  • What is the impact of different approaches to parent communication around absence on the attendance rate of chronically absent pupils? For example, negative vs positive framing of the message, generalised vs personalised messaging, differences in timing, modality, messenger.
  • What is the impact of different approaches to deploying attendance officers on the attendance rate of chronically absent pupils? 
  • What is the impact of different approaches to the use of in-school inclusion units on the rate of exclusion?
  • Do schools adopting a warm-strict’ approach benefit from improved attendance and exclusion rates? 

Approaches should be of high interest to school leaders and teachers in large numbers of English and/​or Welsh schools, and represent a real choice that can be made by school leadership. 

Research questions must focus on the impact of one approach compared to one or more sufficiently distinct approaches. Most likely the comparison will be between two or more distinct approaches, but it might be appropriate to compare one approach against the absence of that approach. At least one of the approaches studied must have a theory of change that leads directly to improved attendance or reduced exclusions in the short term (for example, within a timeframe of one or two school years), as well as a long-term outcome of improved attainment or reduced involvement in violence which may take longer time to emerge. 

Approaches can be universal or targeted. If the approach is universal, the research should be primarily designed to understand the impact on pupils who should most benefit from the approach (e.g., pupils on free school meals, pupils with the lowest attendance rates, pupils with highest rate of behavioural issues, pupils with a record of poor academic attainment). 

How to apply 

Interested research organisations and/​or teams should submit their Expressions of Interest to Guillermo Romero (guillermo.​romero@​eefoundation.​org.​uk). If you are a school interested in participating as part of this research, we encourage you to leave your details by filling this form and we will be in contact on how you can help us with this work.


Applications for funding open on Tuesday 3rd of May 2022 and will close on Tuesday, 31st May 2022.