Section 19 of the Education Act outlines local authorities’ responsibilities in finding suitable provision for children that are unable to attend mainstream education. We understand that LAs often have difficulty placing these children and even understanding where they are after they leave mainstream education, making meeting your responsibilities difficult.
To complicate matters, school exclusions are at a 16-year high, the number of children with SEND is increasing, there is a growing number of children that have split timetables, attend multiple settings for their education, attend school out of area or are electively home educated.
It’s vital that all teams can access the right information for the children they are responsible for and that this information is relevant and up to date. That way, they can ensure that the right action is taken, which may even include preventing exclusions in the first place.
Why Are Children Excluded From School?
The primary reason for exclusion is often cited as ‘persistently disruptive behaviour’. However, before resorting to expelling students, we must ask why a child is behaving disruptively in the classroom. Failing to pose this question means failing our young people. Astonishingly, 80% of school exclusions affect children under the care of a social worker.
Can We Prevent Exclusions?
For a child, being excluded from school is the harshest penalty. It not only takes them out of the education system but also ostracises them from society, making them outcasts.
Preventing exclusions has numerous benefits including improving outcomes for children, ensuring their safeguarding and making sure they don’t go missing in education. It would also decrease the pressure on overworked social care teams and help LAs work more efficiently on a smaller number of cases. So how do we prevent exclusions?
One problem is that LAs don’t have visibility of which children are at risk of being excluded. Creating an early warning system to help reduce exclusions is something we’re developing with the LAs we support. We are providing attendance teams with this information early, so they can understand the reasons behind the challenges children are having. This means they can intervene early and prevent exclusions by introducing initiatives such as trauma-informed schools training or mentoring cohorts and children particularly at risk.
Key Challenges of Supporting Children in Alternative Provisions
Of course, avoiding exclusions is not always possible, and there are also other reasons why children might attend an Alternative Provision (AP). A high proportion of children in AP academies, AP free schools and PRUs have identified special educational needs compared to those in mainstream schools: 77.1% of children have a SEN or disability, and 10.4% have SEN statements or EHC plans. This compares to 14.4% and 2.8% in all schools respectively.
One issue for LAs is that it’s complicated to track whether or not children are attending alternative provisions. This is causing many issues, including:
- Safeguarding concerns; many LAs don’t know where the children are because APs are commissioned by multiple different teams and tracking is often done on spreadsheets which are difficult to keep up to date.
- Value for money is not being achieved; Alternative provisions are charging LAs for children who are not attending and money is being spent on home transport services that are not being utilised.
- National data shows that 4.5% of children who attended AP achieved 9-4 passes in English and Mathematics at GCSE, compared to 65.1% in state-funded mainstream schools.
- Provisions may not meet the educational or social requirements of each child. Without measures to track children attending APs, it is very difficult to identify what’s working well and what isn’t.
How Can We Make Sure All Children’s Needs Are Met?
I mentioned earlier that children with social workers make up 80% of school exclusions. We are working with LAs to build out the Studybugs platform to make it easier for you to support these children and reduce exclusions.
For example, we are ensuring that children on CIN and CP plans are highlighted to the schools. This is not something that currently happens automatically. We have projects underway with the National Association of Virtual School Heads (NAVSH) to ensure all children with a social worker are getting the support they need, whatever their setting.
Ensuring children attend their education setting is of course paramount. But so is making sure their care providers know whether or not the child is attending. That’s why Studybugs has developed a system for sending live alerts to social workers so they immediately know when their children have not turned up for school or their alternative setting.
Other vulnerable groups such as children with SEND are also at risk; children with SEND are significantly more likely to experience bullying, EBSA, poor school attendance and poor educational outcomes compared to their peers. Quickly having visibility of children with poor attendance and also the reasons behind poor attendance can enable SEND teams to intervene early and ensure this vulnerable cohort is getting the support they need.
We’d Love to Hear From You
We love talking to local authorities about their needs and how we can help you support all children under your
care. If, in this blog, we’ve touched upon anything that you’d like to discuss, please
— Yvette Lovelock
Data sourced from the DfE’s AP Roadmap.