Written evidence submitted by Child Poverty Action Group


About CPAG


Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) works on behalf of the more than one in four children in the UK growing up in poverty. It doesn’t have to be like this. We work to understand what causes poverty, the impact it has on children’s lives, and how it can be prevented and solved – for good. We provide training, advice and information to make sure hard-up families get the financial support they need. We also carry out high profile legal work to establish and protect families’ rights.


About this submission


This submission draws on CPAG’s Cost of the School Day project, a large-scale, three-year research project that has gathered evidence from over 1,700 parents and carers and 630 members of school staff, and held face-to-face interviews with over 10,000 school pupils in England and Wales.


We work with schools, pupils and families to identify and address the cost-related barriers faced by pupils from low-income families to full participation in all aspects of the school. We explore the lived experience of pupils and families and gather evidence on the barriers that children living on low incomes face which can contribute to absenteeism.


More information about the Cost of the School Day project is available here:


Given CPAG’s areas of expertise, this submission focuses on barriers for school attendance for lower income parents, specifically, the cost barriers that families face and the effectiveness of school policies in helping pupils and families overcome those barriers.







The factors causing persistent and severe absence among different groups of pupils, in particular, disadvantaged pupils


Our Cost of the School Day research found that school attendance and behaviour policies can create cost barriers for families which can impact the school attendance of children living on a lower income. School policies and practices around uniform, dressing up days, transport costs and punctuality policies can all create barriers to attendance.


Pupils, parents and school staff identified the following factors as creating potential cost barriers leading to absenteeism:






Our research has gathered evidence on school strategies that can reduce absenteeism, as well as evidence on strategies that are less effective.


Effective school approaches to absenteeism:




School attendance strategies that do not work:



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

It is important that the proposed reforms reflect existing evidence regarding what works to tackle persistent absence. Our research shows that certain interventions, including fining parents, or rewarding attendance are problematic, whilst measures to address the root causes of absence such as school costs and uniform policies can be highly effective.


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

There is a lack of literature on the impact of breakfast clubs on pupil attendance but our research suggests that breakfast clubs have a positive effect on attendance and learning.


February 2023