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In The Big Ask, children told me how important teachers are. They also told me that school is the place they want to receive support if they need it. Children explained the importance of being in a nurturing and supportive environment for them to thrive in future.

I really want to learn even if it’s hard because education is important to me.

Girl, 11,
The Big Ask.

My work so far…

hand reaching for pencils


Every child should leave school being able to read and write, and to have received any additional support they need to thrive into their adult lives. Since the beginning of 2022, I’ve been pushing to make sure every child is in school who should be.

In June 2022, I published the results of my Attendance Audit, which included a survey of all local authorities and a deep dive with 10 areas to understand the cohort of children who are not attending school regularly, and those who are missing from education altogether.

Dame Rachel de Souza leaning over table reading some school work next to students

In July, I published the initial findings from analysis of attendance data from three Multi-Academy Trusts. This ground-breaking new analysis looked at patterns of individual attendance data and found, for example, that children who do not attend school in the first week of September are much more likely to miss large chunks of their schooling across the whole term.

Attendance is everyone’s business. My team have developed a Back into School portal which includes information and resources for children and young people, families and schools. 

It takes a long time to be diagnosed so you just feel stupid for a long time which makes you unhappy.

Boy, 12,
The Big Ask
tutor looking at a laptop with girl

Special Educational Needs & Disabilities (SEND)

My team spoke to more than 50 children with SEN or additional needs in various education settings, from mainstream schools to special schools and Alternative Provision (AP), to understand the struggles they face.

They highlighted three key areas on which they feel more progress needs to be made, and these priorities formed the basis of my response to the Government’s consultation on reforming the SEND system. I want the right provision to be in place for every child with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities, with a focus on support for those at risk of falling behind.

reaching for book in a library

I am working closely with the Department for Education on their implementation plan for the findings of the SEND consultation to ensure every child gets the right support, in the right place, at the right time. 

I am also focusing on how to make sure all children leave school able to read and write. This will include exploring opportunities to identify, intervene and support children before they start school, so that all children can begin education ready to learn and engage in lessons.

Dame Rachel de Souza with teachers outside Thornleigh Salesian college

Relationships & Sex Education (RSE)

I was commissioned by the Department of Education to understand children’s experience of Relationship and Sex Education, and my office has conducted a nationally representative survey of children’s attitudes to this. 

I published a series of resources for schools on the findings from The Big Ask.

Our priority areas