Response to the Education Committee’s report on persistent absence
Our response to the Education Select Committee's report on persistent absence and support for disadvantaged pupils
Responding to the Education Select Committee’s report on persistent absence to which The Bell Foundation gave oral evidence, Diana Sutton, Director said:-
“In our evidence we highlighted the absence rates of children who speak English as an Additional Language (EAL). We welcome the Committee’s attention to this and the recommendation that further research should be conducted into the barriers to school attendance for pupils who speak EAL. Our evidence highlighted the worrying rise in the use of ‘withdrawal’ practices, where pupils are receiving out-of-class support and not being given access to the full curriculum.
Multilingual classrooms are now the norm across the UK, with more than one in five pupils speaking EAL. And yet, teachers have told us that a lack of training, guidance and resources has left them feeling ill-equipped to support these pupils effectively.
As stated in our evidence to the Committee earlier this year, the link between being absent from mainstream school and being a refugee or a late arrival1 pupil speaking EAL is clear. Plugging the current research gap is key to understanding and tackling this issue.
But we must also go further than this, to ensure schools receive the support they so crucially need.
We call on the Government to ensure that schools are provided with clear guidance on integrating EAL pupils into the mainstream and on communicating with families, which schools tell us is so key in tackling absence.
It is important to remember EAL pupils are a hugely diverse group, potentially including both a child of a banker with a high level of English, as well as a newly arrived refugee, who has experienced disrupted schooling and may be new to English. We also call for guidance on assessing and recording proficiency in English, which, despite its primary importance for attainment, is not yet routinely assessed nor is this data collected”.
Diana Sutton, Director of The Bell Foundation
1.With ‘late arrivals’ we are referring to pupils arriving late into the school system, from Key Stage 3 to 5. Data shows a severe attainment penalty for this group, as they have less time to catch up with their English language proficiency than an EAL pupil joining the school system from Reception.