Children in danger of becoming ‘invisible’ to authorities

There are many thousands of vulnerable youngsters in England who are missing from the education system, according to a new report from the education standards watchdog.

Ofsted is warning that local authorities are failing to keep track of up to 10,000 pupils who are not receiving full-time education and are in danger of becoming prey to abuse, The Independent reports.

Four out of the 15 authorities it surveyed did not know how much education children out of school were receiving and only five could immediately give inspectors information on how much tuition they were getting.

“This can be a safeguarding as well as an educational matter,” said chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw. “If no-one in authority knows what education these children and young people receive each week, or whether they even attend, they not only miss out on education but can be vulnerable to abuse.”

Some of the children had been excluded from school illegally, sent home without heads operating the formal legal exclusion process. Others included pregnant school girls and pupils with mental or physical health problems. In one case a 15 year-old boy had not been receiving full-time education for eight years; in another a girl who had been on course to get good exam grades was only given part-time lessons in parenting skills when she left school to have a baby.

The report also looked at councils which were successful in keeping track of young people: “This was not achieved by managerial box-ticking but by a moral purposefulness in everything they did,” the report found. “The best local authorities ensure that no young person in their area slips out of sight. They are conscientious and determined in communicating with others, understanding that such responsibility does not stop at their local authority’s boundaries.”

In future Ofsted will inspect out-of-school provision for vulnerable children and is calling for all schools and authorities to maintain a central record of children who are not in full-time lessons.

Are you shocked at the number of ‘invisible’ children? What should be done to ensure they get a proper education?

5 thoughts on “Children in danger of becoming ‘invisible’ to authorities

  1. It has recently been suggested that the Education system is heading for a leadership crisis. How are different age groups represented within teaching? In London certainly there seems to be a lack of over 50s. Is this true for the whole country? Is is because there is a preference for the young and cheap? Are teachers disposable and their workload unsustainable over a whole career?

  2. I wonder if this proposed inspection will include the thousands of children who are legitimately home-schooled according to the provision of Section 37 of the 1944 Education Act, allowing the education of children at school or otherwise? As a teacher since 1978, I can speak of the value of home-schooling. All four of our children were taught at home and are now in their twenties and pursuing successful careers; my oldest daughter graduated in education with a first and is now herself a highly skilled teacher.

  3. I’m sure that there is a value in home schooling but there appears to be little done to monitor it. Scant plans can be put to LEAs and approved without OFSTED involvement, and thereafter very few checks carried out to ensure standards are adequate or indeed that the pupil is “attending” thus leaving a worrying gap through which children can slip.

  4. Home schooling is of course legitimate and in many cases, no doubt very successful and of high quality. However, I have always been amazed that there is little or no oversight of this provision by the authorities. There is enormous official scrutiny of mainstream school provision and pupil attainment yet home schooling requires none. Apart from doubts over educational provision we should also be concerned about the safeguarding issues of these ‘invisible’ young people.

  5. Despite home education being “legal” in the UK, we were hounded by the local Social Services family unit. They claimed that if our children don’t go to school then they can’t be “monitored” (for them, this was the primary reason that children should be required to attend a school); and they also removed our children stating that they were “at risk of neglect”. One of their main reasons for this action was that I had withdrawn the children from school. This despite the fact that I did so by following the legal requirements and having informed the Education Authority that I had decided to home educate our children.

    The social workers even connived with the Education Authority home-school inspector to request a surprise inspection (after already having agreed an appointment for several weeks later). We happened to be attending a home-education group in another part of London the day he wanted to visit, so we naturally informed him it wasn’t convenient. And this was seized upon as “failing to collaborate with the authorities” (which was the second main reason why they justified removing the children into care in some secret location).

    Sure, there needs to be some way of ensuring that children aren’t hidden away and kept isolated and perhaps even treated badly or abused. But to make it an official policy by Ofsted smacks of human rights infringement and state control in our personal lives. (BTW, the European convention of human rights specifically excludes rights to “enjoy a family life free of interference” if anyone makes allegations that the children are “at risk” in any way. These allegations don’t have to be substantiated. It’s up to the parents to prove their innocence, or satisfy the relevant authorities beyond doubt that their children will never be at risk, of “emotional abuse” or “neglect” or “physical danger”, while under their care. Go figure.)

    Finally, nowadays, formal education – in schools – is becoming increasingly irrelevant and possibly a huge waste of time and effort for all concerned. Research shows (e.g. Paula Rothermel) that children who are not “educated” at school tend to be better adjusted, happier, more social, more sporty, and have more skills and knowledge than the school-educated contemporaries. They also tend to do better on standardised tests (assuming they submit to the stress and humiliation of completing these tests, that is).

    So the question really should be: why are so many children still attending school, when they would be far better off and achieve greater success and contentment if they were to stay at home (to be “educated” or not, it doesn’t seem to matter in the end)?

    Ofsted should be focusing more on how to provide educational resources and access to sports and music and art and recreational facilities to children without requiring them to attend any school.

    And, in the meantime… teacher, leave them (10,000) kids alone.

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