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Supportive text messaging to encourage student success

24th Mar 2017

Today, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) has announced that they are funding three interventions to help improve outcomes for 16-18-year-old students who are resitting their GCSEs. We are excited that the social support intervention we’ve developed is one of them.

Many of us might take for granted that someone in our lives cares about our learning and will regularly talk to us about it. If we didn’t have that someone, be it a parent, or someone else, our education might have panned out differently. We’ve all experienced what it feels like to struggle with something and not know who to turn to. Very often, if the problem isn’t that nobody cares, it’s that they don’t know how to help, and we don’t know how to ask.

As part of our three-year programme of research under the Adult Skills and Knowledge (ASK) research centre, we’ve been testing ways to spark conversations between learners and a support person that they nominate. A supporter could be anyone – a parent, a brother or sister, friend, or a granny who cares about the student and their learning. Supporters are then sent a series of messages to encourage and support them to talk to students about their courses. For example, one text read:

Early research, reported in our Update Report last year, showed an 11 per cent increase in attendance by students whose supporters were texted.

Effect of the study support intervention on mid-year attendance

In an earlier study, ALERT, we also found large effects of texting learners themselves to encourage them to attend and engage with their studies, and we found that this led to a 12 per cent increase in students passing their exams.

We’ve also been conducting a series of small-scale pilots with students in further education colleges over the last 12 months, to test some of our newest and most interesting ideas. Collaborating with the EEF will give us the scale to incorporate all of these ideas together for the first time and hopefully make an amazing difference to the lives of young people. To make things as easy as possible for colleges and tutors, we’re also going to be using Promptable, BIT’s new texting platform, to run the research.

If you are interested in taking part, sign up here. If you would simply like to learn more about this project, email us at