Education Endowment Foundation:BITUP: Updating Parents on Number of School Days Missed (2023/24 trial)

BITUP: Updating Parents on Number of School Days Missed (2023/24 trial)

The Behavioural Insights Team
Project info

Independent Evaluator

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A trial to test the impact of sending parents text messages about their child’s attendance on school attendance rates.

Pupils: 89100 Schools: 115 Grant: £319,698
Participating settings: 115

This trial was recruiting, but is now full.

BITUP is a parent communication intervention aimed at improving pupils’ school attendance, delivered by the Behavioural Insights Team (BIT). The programme involves updating parents/​carers on the number of days of school their child has missed over a 6 – 8 week period (half term) via personalised text messages. BIT shares the template messages with schools and identifies pupils with below 95% attendance in the previous half term. After reviewing the list of pupil names to ensure it is appropriate for those parents to receive the text messages, the school sends the tailored messages out. This is repeated every half term and will take approximately two hours of administrative staff work each time. To prepare for sending out the messages, online guidance will be shared with schools.

BITUP is designed to be delivered to all pupils in years 7 – 11. All state funded mainstream secondary schools in England could be eligible for this programme – BIT will check whether each schools’ current attendance practices mean they can take part.

Find out more here:

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) and the Youth Endowment Fund (YEF) are partnering to commission a number of research projects to find out which approaches are most effective in enabling pupils at the highest risk of absenteeism and/​or exclusion from school to attend, positively engage with, and remain in school/​college, to improve their attainment and reduce the likelihood of them becoming involved in violence.

The programme has a strong evidence base from research both in the UK and US. In a large-scale trial in the US, sending parents messages to update them on the number of days of school missed led to a 10% reduction in persistent absence; this effect was particularly strong for disadvantaged pupils. The BITUP programme has also undergone a trial in the UK where exploratory outcomes indicated that sending parents the text messages improved the proportion of pupils with good attendance (above 95%) by 4 percentage points.

BITUP is being independently evaluated at an efficacy level. This means it will be delivered to a fixed number of settings to ensure a consistent quality in programme delivery across settings. The evaluation will be a two-armed cluster-randomised controlled trial, with randomisation within schools at family level. In each of the 100 schools, families will be randomly allocated to either an intervention or control group. Parents from families in the intervention group will be eligible to receive text messages if their child’s attendance drops below 95% in any given half term. Pupils from families in the control group will continue to have their attendance supported by schools in the usual way. All schools involved in the trial will therefore send out messages to eligible parents in the intervention group.

The primary outcome will be the impact of BITUP on pupil attendance across the academic year. The evaluation team will also conduct subgroup analyses on gender, year group, FSM, EAL, authorised vs unauthorised absences and pupils who receive multiple messages across the year.

A team from Kantar Public will be conducting the independent evaluation, led by Professor Natalie Gold.

The evaluation report will be published in Summer 2025.