The Government has announced a Consultation on the registration of all non-school educational provision. This would include parents who home educate. It would, of course, have to be specifically funded, or LAs may actually do very little, as with illegal child employment. A few cases of neglectful and abusive parenting, or parents who have been forced into home-education rather than actively choosing it, are not typical of the whole EHE community. Neither does this emphasis on parents deal with the schools and LAs who are failing to meet many children's needs, or address illegal off-rolling or illegal schools. Some EHE children will be at risk, just as some of those on school registers are. But any confrontational attitude will make it less likely that parents will agree to co-operate with a system of registration, even if that is eventually required. And then what will happen if they don't? Will there be any schools willing to take their childen? Many parents fear that LAs may be as heavy-handed here as some have been about occasional term-time holidays, (which has been entirely counter-productive). The education and welfare of children should indeed be our focus, not criticising perfectly reasonable parents who are doing nothing wrong. 02.04.19
I have two more battles to fight before I retire!
(1) There is nothing in DfE Guidance about how to record the absence of children who are not of compulsory age. Schools should use X for sessions that are not part of their agreed programme because attendance doesn't have to be full-time. This avoids recording an unnecessary absence. And the Regulations clearly state that the authorised and unauthorised system does not apply to them - only to those of compulsory age - though this nearly always comes as a surprise to many of the schools (and LAs) I have worked with. But the Guidance needs to spell this out and that only AA codes can be used. Many parents are having unauthorised absences recorded entirely without any legal basis. Incidentally the published 'whole school' data doesn't include these children. That's usually a surprise as well.
(2) What mark are schools supposed to use when a child comes in after registration has closed, but for a reason entirely beyond the parent's control? They really have had an early medical appointment. They have struggled in through traffic chaos, a train strike or in heavy snow. The school bus broke down on the way in. In all these situations the Guidance says the session should be marked U - an offence by the parent. This is so obviously wrong that many schools now choose to mark L anyway, but why isn't this discretion, in appropriate cases, included in the advice? Surely we should be rewarding such behaviour, not punishing it? Might as well take the whole session off - then it will be authorised. Entirely the wrong signal to send.
I don't have the ear of the DfE but would those who do pass this on please? 28.03.19
The latest DfE figures for absence in 2017/18 are out. What do they tell us? 1. Overall absence has gone up in all phases, particularly in special. Nothing at all to do with massive cuts in support services of course. 2. Holiday fines don't work. The number of sessions lost to holidays (0.5% - yes, that's all it is, and fewer than 1 in 5 children actually miss school for a holiday), is about the same as it was 5 years ago even though most are now unauthorised and over half a million fines have been issued. 3. Many LAs are issuing penalty fines like confetti and then using the money to pay for issuing more penalty fines. Colleagues at the FORUM Attendance Conference yesterday told me it is increasingly difficult to get any response to the chronic and complex cases, only the 'quick wins' when the children were only off for a few days. 4. Children's education suffers when parents and schools are set against each other or when improving the data is the focus. My advice when you're in a hole is to stop digging but I don't suppose anyone will take any notice. Oh, and Damien Hinds, 'persistent absence' is not the same as 'truancy'. D-. Do your homework! 22.03.13
Is Ofsted confused about 'off-rolling'? Off-registering is entirely correct in some circumstances. Of course students shouldn't just be dumped or parents forced to home educate when they don't want to. But the recent case of a school in Stoke was about students being transferred to supervised alternative providers. That is not illegal or a problem. LAs have a DUTY to make other provision for some students. Some young people are caught up in all kinds of problems that prevent them from attending mainstream schools. If they have missed most of Y10, what is the point of Y11? They may have unaddressed needs which mean they can't even read the text book - if they have one. It is the right thing to do if they will otherwise waste the next 4 months not attending and then failing all their pointless GCSEs. The goal is 'education ' not always 'school'. 08.03.19
No great surprise in these findings from an international study of the links between anxiety and absenteeism from school:
'Findings suggest associations between anxiety and unexcused absences/truancy, and school refusal. Clinicians should consider the possibility of anxiety in children and adolescents with poor attendance. However, there is a lack of high quality evidence, little longitudinal research and limited evidence relating to overall absenteeism or excused/medical absences, despite the latter being the most common type of absence. These gaps should be a key priority for future research' https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/camh.12322
The issue we have here is that the DfE has lumped all absences together as a key indicator of the performance of schools, whatever the reason. We have no real understanding of why children are absent before we try to apply a 'solution' because there isn't the time or the staff available to do a proper assessment. This emphasis on the data has made schools overly-inquisitive and parents overly-defensive. It has created a climate of mutual suspicion where every absence becomes a problem and which is completely unhelpful in recognising children's individual needs and actually addressing them. Schools and local authorities seem to expect a quick fix which is simply not realistic. 05.03.19
Some interesting ideas here from Robert Halfon MP, Chair of the Education Select Committee: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-47149808 If we want all young people to stay in education longer, which is not compulsory beyond Y11 at the moment, we will need to think about the settings in which education is delivered, not just assume we can extend the compulsory period and enforce attendance in the previous ways, which are largely ineffective. We have always neglected vocational education in favour of a more academic currciculum. Our model of state education is still mostly based on the public schools of the C19th. Clearly 'school' does not work for every young person. I wonder if we will ever get to a genuinely diverse system that offers a real choice of quality pathways and outcomes, some at a school, but some not, perhaps from age 14 onwards. We need genuine reform, not just more of the same. 11.02.19
Elective Home Education or 'home schooling' is in the news again, with a call by the Children's Commissioner for a compulsory register and an edition of 'Dispatches' on Channel 4 tonight, somewhat misleadingly entitled 'Skipping School'. There has been a considerable growth in the numbers in recent years, (but we don't of course know the exact figures). Many examples, it is claimed, are because schools are either persauding or even demanding parents do it or because local authorities are not making suitable provision for children with additional needs. It has always been a parent's right to choose to make other arrangements - but it must be their choice. I'm not against the idea of registration; we should know who all these children are. But I would worry if the State tried to regulate what parents 'must' provide or it becomes a cheap alternative for children with needs that the school system cannot resource. That was never what the 'otherwise' option was for. 04.02.19
There was a film on the BBC News website last week (which now seems to have disappeared) about children in the Chinese community in
the UK 'helping out' (i.e.working) in takeaways. Not a mention of the fact that we have laws in this country designed, albeit a long time ago, to protect children from exploitation and prevent child
labour. No-body takes any notice of them. This is a massive blindspot in our approach to child welfare. Next time you hear someone complaining about the abuse of children in developing countries, ask
them what they are doing about illegal child employment under our noses! If you work in a school, have you any idea what the law is and what your pupils are doing? 03.02.19
I have now retired from most face to face work. But there is still considerable demand for the FORUM TRAINING Attendance Officer course (see link in left panel) so I'm carrying on with that. Over 450 people have now completed this course with another 200 or so just attending the initial seminar. I know my legal and welfare-based approach is different from the way some others approach the issue but it is extremely important not to become too punitive or data focused.
My other interest is radical Christianity. If that sounds a bit weird I understand. If not, you might find that page and my free downloads interesting. This will gradually become the focus of this website, but not quite yet! 01.02.19
Make a loan. Change a life.
Support small businesses in developing countries with microloans. Then, when the loan is repaid, you can lend the same money again!
I have now retired from most of my face-to-face school attendance and absence training, but I still offer my STUDY, AUDIT AND TRAIN PACK by email. I also still WHITTER on education issues now and again and deliver occasional courses for FORUM TRAINING.
My HOME PAGE now reflects my other main interest. Can Christianity and its central figure mean anything to those who are not convinced that conventional ideas of 'God' take us where we need to go as modern, thoughtful human beings? Can faith be radical, rational and inclusive?
FEEDBACK is always very welcome.
ALL INFORMATION AND ADVICE PROVIDED ON THIS WEBSITE, AND IN RELATED RESOURCES, IS GIVEN IN GOOD FAITH AND IS TRUE AND ACCURATE TO THE BEST OF MY KNOWLEDGE AND BELIEF. HOWEVER NO LIABILTY IS ACCEPTED FOR ANY ADVERSE CONSEQUENCES ARISING THEREFROM OR FOR ANY IMPLICATIONS OF UNINTENDED ERRORS. I HAVE BOTH PUBLIC LIABILITY AND PROFESSIONAL INDEMNITY INSURANCE.