Written evidence submitted by Catch22


Catch22 is a national charity and social business that designs and delivers public services right across the social welfare cycle, from children’s social care through to alternative provision education, apprenticeships and prison rehabilitation programmes in custody and the community. Our vision is a strong society where everyone has a good place to live, a purpose and good people around them. As an organisation, our principal aim is to help reform public services so that everyone can achieve these things. 

Catch22 Education provides alternative and special full-time and part-time education for young people displaying a wide range of complex barriers to education, including those who are excluded or at risk of exclusion and those with social, emotional and mental health needs (SEMH) or special educational needs (SEN). We run 4 Independent schools located across England and Wales, termed collectively under our “Include” banner; Include Norfolk, Include Suffolk, Include London and Include Wales.

Across our alternative provision schools, our average attendance rate is 63.5%. We have a targeted approach to managing and raising attendance, the foundation of which is built on developing strong relationships with parents/carers from the outset of a student’s enrolment. Approaches are planned in collaboration with parents, such that parents/carers are transparent with attendance issues and can be effectively supported to overcome such challenges. Our schools follow DfE and LA guidelines and protocols when managing poor attendance.


What factors cause persistent and severe absence among different groups of pupils, in particular:

Disadvantaged pupils,

The vast majority of students at our schools have been excluded from at least one previous education setting, sometimes more. Similarly, their disadvantage means that they are often in contact with social care services and have experienced trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). There is an overwhelming feeling of being “let down” by these services amongst our cohort and their parents. This leads to considerable mistrust and disillusionment from the system in general, resulting in non-engagement. To exemplify, the 2 students we currently have on roll who are LAC and in a children’s home have an attendance rate of 0%.

    1. Economic disadvantage:

Typically, a lack of at-home support and interest in a child’s schooling will significantly impact whether or not a student achieves good attendance and can stem from the socioeconomic disadvantage faced by these families. Events with good intentions, such as Christmas Jumper Day, fancy dress or World Book Day can place an enormous strain on families who simply can’t afford these things, and they and their children can feel ostracised as a result, leading to disengagement. In addition, buying and washing school uniform can also prove difficult due to economic hardship – where schools do not offer free second hand uniform and students are given consequences for non-compliance of uniform regulations, again, there may be a greater propensity for the family to feel antagonised in this regard.




Pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds,


Further to this, whilst some students may have English as their first language, it is often the case that their parents speak little to no English at all. Of course, this makes school-home communication a challenge. If attendance drops, it’s difficult to understand why, and engage and support parents in driving school attendance. In addition, in areas where ethnic minorities are not the majority, there could be issues with language and cultural traditions that make things like homework, school events and communications difficult. We often see that this evokes a perception that they are being actively castigated by the school for not understanding how to participate in the school community which, again, can lead to disengagement.



Pupils with SEND and those who are clinically vulnerable to covid-19,


Pupils in alternative provision.


Recommendation: Expand the availability of online/remote provision for the hardest-to-reach persistent non-attenders.


Catch22 have set up an online provision, Cloud22, for persistent non-attenders. Cloud22 was breed out of COVID due to the national lockdowns and the shift to remote education. Historically we always had a small number of pupils who were chronic non-attenders. Once we started the online teaching delivery, we began seeing pupils appear online who had little or even zero attendance in the school to date. We identified a gap in the market for the education of children who are too anxious to attend onsite schools.


We started with just one teacher and 6 pupils who all thrived in the small nurturing environment where they felt most comfortable learning. The curriculum is the same as our onsite schools, the teaching hours are the same and the ambition of securing positive post-16 destinations is just like a mainstream pupil. Over the next two years, the local authority loved what we were doing to meet the needs of these hard-to-reach children and supported us to expand the provision. We now have 22 pupils, 2 teachers, 2 teachings assistants, a pastoral lead and dedicated time for our school integrative therapist to work with those that need her support.


Due to our different approach to meeting their needs, we are now able to take referrals from the local authority for pupils who have been NEET for a long period of time and those who have very little attendance at previous schools due to social, emotional and/or mental health concerns.



How schools and families can be better supported to improve attendance, and how this affects pupils and families who are clinically vulnerable to covid-19?


The impact of the Department’s proposed reforms to improve attendance?


The impact of school breakfast clubs and free school meals on improving attendance for disadvantaged pupils?


The role of the Holiday Activities and Food programme and other after school and holiday clubs, such as sports, in improving attendance and engagement with school?

February 2023