Supplementary evidence submitted by The Bell Foundation

This document provides supplementary evidence to the testimony provided by Diana Sutton, Director of The Bell Foundation, to the Education Select Committee’s inquiry into Persistent Absence on 16 May 2023.

This document contains additional information on:

  1. Interventions to engage families who speak English as an Additional Language, including our survey findings
  2. Interventions for late arriving pupils who speak English as an Additional Language


  1. Interventions to engage families who speak English as an Additional Language, including our survey findings.

The Bell Foundation carried out a survey with 52 established partners across the country to explore their observations, experiences and learning around persistent and/or severe absence for learners using EAL and what worked in relation to interventions. The respondents were made up of practitioners/senior leaders from primary (11) and secondary (29) schools as well as Local Authority services (12). Geographically responses come from organisations across the country including regions where the numbers of EAL learners are well above the national average such as London, Bristol, and Birmingham.  


Over 70% of those responding to the survey said that one of the most successful approaches to improving absences was developing meaningful relationships and communication with families. Effective strategies mentioned included:- 



In terms of what would have the greatest impact on improving attendance among learners using EAL the reasons given in the survey varied, however there were reoccurring patterns around parental involvement, school support and available guidance and 12% of those who answered this question referred to the need for more support and guidance about attendance from Local Authorities, and from Government.   


44 % of those who answered this question referred the importance of building effective relationships and communication with families and ensuring information about attendance was communicated in a comprehensible way.   


Improved home-school communication. Parent's feeling more welcome to ask questions and better informed about school life/rules/expectations in general. 

Building relationships with families and making sure key school information about the education system and expectations are communicate clearly to EAL parents.

Use the home language to do this where possible and make sure the school website is accessible to families whose first language is not English. Engaging them in the school and helping them to understand the need for education.  Family engagement is really the key to everything. 


“Building excellent relationships with parents through initial starter meetings, settling in meetings, regular coffee mornings as well as providing translation support for parents evenings if needed.    Using a same language speaker to call home and check in on any issues that may affect pupil attending school.    Providing key school information and expectations in the home language from the onset”


“Meeting with parents, where practices and procedures are explained in a non-threatening and relaxed, supportive environment, having translation facilities to explain school expectations and legal requirements (translation buttons on websites are particularly helpful to parents). Explanation booklets (either visually supported or in home languages) detailing the school expectations are also helpful.”


Coventry has a longstanding commitment to the use of first language, where possible, in the early days of a school placement. This gives schools and families a chance to get to know each other and gives the child support in getting to know the rules and routines of school whilst making friends and settling into their new class. FUNDING SHOULD BE AVAILBLE FOR THIS!”


26% of those who answered this question referred to the importance of building effective language interventions and support for newly arrived pupils including ensuring a welcoming environment and appropriately trained staff.  


Extra EAL trained staff to assess the students' needs, teach the students how to cope take the time to translate and listen to their concerns create a safe environment where the impact of change is eliminated. 


An inclusive approach, welcoming atmosphere, and lots of support, also in terms of a buddying program to encourage social life. 


Other examples given either in the survey or of which we are aware include:- 






DfE should revise the non-statutory DfE guidance to include language accessibility earlier in the process (ie in drafting the attendance policy and building strong relationships) and not just once absence is a problem and attendance contracts are being drawn up. The Department for Education should issue guidance to schools on:  Effective communication with parents and caregivers who use EAL, including the use of translated materials and simple English to enable understanding of school expectations and systems.



  1. Interventions for late arriving pupils who speak English as an Additional Language

Although in some cases, intensive out of class intervention may be necessary, as with all out of class interventions, any withdrawal of EAL learners from a mainstream class should be for a specific purpose, time-limited and linked to the work of the mainstream class with the subject or class teacher involved in all planning 


The Bell Foundation is currently working with others to research education access and provision for refugee and asylum-seeking adolescents who arrive later into the English speaking school system. Together, we are seeking to understand practices that promote academic and wellbeing outcomes for these adolescents, with a focus on those at the upper-secondary level.  The findings will be shared with the Committee later in the year once they are available.  


Successful interventions we have observed include:-   




May 2023