Fifteen-million-pound plans to ramp up a school attendance scheme that provides mentoring to severely absent pupils in left-behind parts of England have been unveiled.
Barnardo’s is currently running a three-year trial of the project, which began in 2022, in five of the government’s 24 priority education investment areas (PEIAs).
The charity was awarded the £2.32 million contract to provide one-to-one support to 1,665 schoolchildren across three years who are missing more than half of their lessons.
But a tender released by the Department for Education this week revealed it is looking for firms to recruit and train mentors to work with 3,600 youngsters every year across 10 PEIAs.
It said: “We would need a supplier to support vulnerable children and families in each of the identified PEIAs to improve attendance. Through this work we aim to enhance capacity for early help/intervention.
Attendance pilot tender valued at £15m
“We would be looking for a possibility to deliver an attendance support offer, initially for one year with the intention to extend to three years (total).”
It added that mentors must be trained work with “pupils and families on a one-to-one basis with the intention of understanding barriers” to the child’s attendance and supporting them to resolve this.
The support “should be responsive to the individual’s needs” and could be provided in school or in the youngster’s home. Officials estimated the tender’s value at £15 million.
The Barnardo’s trial currently covers Middlesbrough, Salford, Doncaster, Knowsley, and Stoke-on-Trent.
Education secretary Gillian Keegan told MPs last December that the pilot “tackles the factors behind non-attendance, such as bullying or mental health issues, as well as that feeling of just being too far behind”.
“Middlesbrough was the first area selected to take part. It is a scheme to combat those low school attendance rates, and then we will look to expand that to [four] other areas of the country next year.”
Second investment area scheme boosted
Ministers unveiled the 24 PEIAs last year “to address entrenched underperformance, including in literacy and numeracy, in areas with some of the highest rates of disadvantage in the country”, according to the schools white paper.
Schools in these parts of the country are eligible to receive extra cash through the local needs fund, as well as the attendance mentoring pilot.
PEIAs are a subset of the government’s wider education investment area (EIA) levelling-up programme.
Earlier this month the DfE announced that it had allocated a further £20 million to its connect the classroom project, which prioritises bids from schools in the 55 EIAs.
The scheme – which will now allocate £200 million in all until 2025 – aims to improve internet speeds.
Schools Week analysis in October showed the extra cash afforded to primaries and secondaries across the investment areas came to about £105 million on average every year. This equates to £49.83 for each pupil.