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Review of Children Missing from Education (Scotland) Service: September 2006-April 2007

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Appendix 13 DfES: Developing a policy for children not receiving education

1. Developing a policy for children not receiving education

1.1. Why do children go missing from education?

1.1.1. When developing a policy for children not receiving education, local authorities should consider the reasons why children go missing to help them develop systems to close the gaps. Children can go missing when they fall out of the education system and there is no systematic process in place to identify them and ensure they re-engage with appropriate provision (which may include services outside of school to meet their needs). Their personal circumstances or those of their families may contribute to the withdrawal process and the failure to make a transition. For example they may:

  • fail to start appropriate provision and hence never enter the system;
  • cease to attend, due to illegal exclusion or withdrawal; or
  • fail to complete a transition between providers (e.g. being unable to find a suitable school place after moving to a new local authority area, or after leaving a custodial establishment).

1.2. Vulnerable groups

1.2.1. Some children who experience certain life events could be more at risk of not receiving education. These can include:

  • young people who have committed offences;
  • children living in women's refuges;
  • children of homeless families, perhaps living in temporary accommodation, house of multiple occupancy or Bed and Breakfast;
  • young runaways;
  • children with long term medical or emotional problems;
  • children affected by substance misuse;
  • unaccompanied asylum seekers;
  • children of refugees and asylum seeking families;
  • children in new immigrant families, who are not yet established in the UK and may not have fixed addresses;
  • children who have been trafficked to, or within the UK;
  • looked after children;
  • children who are privately fostered;
  • young carers;
  • teenage mothers; and
  • children who are permanently excluded from school, particularly those excluded illegally, e.g. for problematic behaviour or offending (see paragraph 2.2.5 for more information on excluded pupils).

1.2.2. When local authorities identify/are made aware of children/young people in any of these groups who may not be receiving education, they should seek advice from the relevant specialist team/partner agency on how best to proceed.

Potential vulnerability due to high mobility

1.2.3. Children from families of members of the Armed Forces are likely to experience high mobility both within and outside the UK. Moves can be made at quite short notice, with future home address and school not known until just before the move. Schools and local authorities can make enquiries through the MOD Children's Education Advisory Service ( CEAS). CEAS can also liaise between local authorities, and with devolved authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Service Children's Education ( SCE) also keeps records of all pupils in Service schools overseas. Enquiries about children in Service schools overseas should also be made via CEAS. The CEAS helpline can be contacted on 01980 618244.

1.2.4. Children in Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families often have a mobile lifestyle and local authority Traveller Education Support Services ( TESS) already advise schools on the best strategies to include these children and promote their achievement and engagement in school activities. There are times when the high mobility of some of these children means they can be more at risk of going missing from education, for example, highly mobile Roma or Traveller families who are living on unauthorised sites and are subject to unpredictable forced movement which hinders access to school. Local authorities should work closely with their TESS in these cases to ensure the correct procedures are followed. More information is available at www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/primary/publications/inclusion/tess/

Pupils excluded from school

1.2.5. It is intended that from September 2007 regulations made under the Education and Inspections Act 2006 will require local authorities to ensure that suitable full-time education is made available to permanently excluded pupils from the sixth school day of exclusion, and schools will likewise be required to arrange full-time education from the sixth school day of fixed period exclusion.

1.2.6. If it becomes apparent that a child has been unofficially excluded the local authority will need to challenge the school as this practice is illegal. More information on exclusions is available at www.dfes.gov.uk/exclusions/guidance/index.cfm

1.3. How to consider police involvement

1.3.1. Although the subject of this guidance is about children not receiving education, there may be occasions when a child identified as such may have been the victim of a crime. Considering the following questions could help identify episodes when police involvement may be necessary:

1.3.2. Have there been suspicions in the past concerning this child and family which together with the sudden disappearance are worrying?

1.3.3. Have there been any past concerns about the child associating with significantly older young people or adults?

1.3.4. Was there a significant incident prior to the child's unexplained absence?

1.3.5. Is there a good reason to believe that the child's absence may be the result of them being the victim of a crime? The following questions could assist a judgement:

1.3.6. If the answer to any of the above questions is yes then a referral to the police should be made - local procedures should be followed. The appropriate Education Welfare Service and/or local authority designated person as agreed locally should be informed.

1.3.7. Other questions to consider are:

1.3.8. Is the child/young person the subject of a child protection plan (on the Child Protection Register)?

1.3.9. Is the child/young person looked after by the local authority?

1.3.10. Is there current social care involvement?

1.3.11. If the answer to any of these questions is yes Children's Social Care should be informed immediately. A referral to the police might be made in line with local procedures. The appropriate Education Welfare Service and/or local authority designated person as agreed locally should be informed.

1.3.12. Positive responses to one or more of the following questions may give an indication that the family is avoiding contact:

  • Has there been Social Services involvement in the past?
  • Is there a history of mobility?
  • Are there immigration issues?
  • Has there been school or local authority intervention in relation to attendance, e.g. visits by Education Welfare Service, parenting contracts and fast-track to attendance?

1.3.13. The quicker the intervention the more likely they will be traced, delay may well lead to longer periods of interrupted education for the child/young person. More guidance on these questions, which were developed with the Metropolitan Police, can be found on the London Child Protection Committee website, in their London Good Practice Guidance for Safeguarding Children Missing from School at http://www.londoncpc.gov.uk/proceedures.htm

1.3.14. There are also some circumstances when a registered pupil of compulsory school age is absent without explanation. Most cases are relatively minor whereby the child returns home quickly or is not believed to be in any serious danger even if they are not found or do not return. However, there are more serious cases where children are concerned, including those where a child may become a victim of crime, such as being abducted by his/her parent, or abduction by a stranger. It is best practice for school administrative staff or support staff to contact parents on any day a registered pupil is absent without explanation (i.e. First Day Contact), including in cases where the pupil skips lessons after registration. By contacting the parent the school also ensures that the parent is aware that the child is not in school enabling the parent to take steps, where necessary, to establish that the child is safe. Further information on first day contact is in the "Tackling it Together toolkit" at http://www.dfes.gov.uk/schoolattendance/goodpractice/tackling.cfm

1.3.15. Other sources of information on where to look for advice about missing children are also available via some non-Government organisations, for example: the National Missing Person's Helpline (their "Education" section on their website www.missingpersons.org contains information which may be useful); also the Parents and Abducted Children Together ( PACT) website www.pact-online.org contains some useful advice.

1.4. Reducing the risk of children not receiving education

1.4.1. There are a range of systems, processes and procedures currently used by local authorities to reduce the risk that children fall out of the education system and go missing. Existing good practice broadly falls into three categories where the local authority introduces measures to:

  • reduce the likelihood that children fall out of the education system, such as audits of the rolls and registers of schools;
  • identify and locate children who are not receiving education, such as via truancy sweeps and the provision of named points of contact to receive notification of children from other agencies; and
  • re-engage the children with appropriate educational provision, for example via multi-agency panels to broker admissions.

1.4.2. Although the main focus of this document is on processes and systems within local authorities, it is important that local authorities work with their partners to ensure that there are robust arrangements for identifying children not receiving education across partner agencies.

1.4.3. The work to identify children not receiving education should also be seen within the wider remit of the local authority to safeguard the welfare of all children. If at any time there are concerns about a child's welfare, and in particular, consider that a child may be, or is, suffering significant harm, established Local Safeguarding Children Board procedures must be followed. Detailed information about Local Safeguarding Children Boards can be found at: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/socialcare/safeguarding/lscb/