The new school year has started and once again the roads are choked with parents taking their children back to school, the morning respite of light traffic during the summer holiday period is finally over.
However during the long six week holiday how many of our children have been” chatting” to their many so called on-line “friends” that they have never met and how has this effected their behaviour. Schools have such an important role to play in families lives primarily in “teaching” our children but they also have a legal duty to safeguard their pupils and promote their well being ( Section 175 Education Act 2002, this legislation applies to all schools & PRU’s, free schools, academies and the independent sector). With the onset of the new academic year they must be vigilant to those pupils who have not returned to school from their summer holidays or are absent during the school week.
There could be a variety of reasons as to why some children do not return to school following the summer break, such as taking advantage of the confusion that currently prevails within the term time holiday legislation following a recent High Court appeal by a parent who appealed against a prosecution for taking his daughter out of school during term time for a holiday.
We also know from many previous concerns that some children have been taken to South East Asian countries during the six week break for a “forced marriage”, this has been highlighted by Jaswinder Sanghera from the charity also based in Derby called Karma Nirvana. Another reason could be that a child has been groomed on-line during the summer holiday period and has been isolated from their support networks, this is classic grooming behaviour which often leads to exploitation and school staff need to be alert to such behaviours so the necessary interventions can take place.
School staff also need to be aware of changing behaviours at school such as a lack of interest in school work, this may not have been the case during the last academic term and as such doers represent change that does require an explanation ! differences in presentation, isolation from friends and peers and also they need to listen to the child’s friends and peers who may be concerned about their friends behaviour and attitude.
The Department for Education have just released their latest guidance for schools regarding children missing from education , it can be found on the following link below; https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/550416/Children_Missing_Education_-_statutory_guidance.pdf
Its worth reading this statutory guidance although its not a bed time read! We are all well aware that some schools are happy for certain children not to attend or persuade them and their parents that it is in their best interest to request to be taken off roll. The guidance is quite clear in what circumstances children maybe removed from a school roll ( Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 section 8) and the investigations that need to take place before a child can lawfully be removed from school roll. It is therefore imperative that parents and professionals are aware of this guidance and the duties that schools have with regard to reporting absences and also removal from school rolls.
Children are required to attend an efficient full time education for 190 days during the year, if children are not in school and are ” invisible” who can protect them. Schools have a legal duty to report unexplained absences and make the necessary enquires to ascertain why children are not attending and then to take the appropriate action to support missing pupils back into school, parents also have a legal duty and moral obligation to ensure that their children attend school on a regular and punctual basis.
I will write another blog next week regarding children who are “home educated” as I am aware that this is a subject that causes at lot of professionals significant anxieties and has recently been a featured in a SCR in Wales following the death of a child who was not in education.
Education and Communities Lead
CSE Response Unit
The National Working Group.