What’s been said?
On 27th April 2018 the Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) published their submission to the Department for Education’s review of school exclusion and call for evidence. The ADCS is “the national leadership organisation in England for Directors of Children’s Services (DCSs)”, who “act as a single point of leadership and accountability for services for children and young people in a local area, including children’s social care and education”
The document covers the following topics:
- Understanding the current context and drivers of exclusions
- Informal exclusions and other alternatives to permanent exclusions
- Elective Home Education (points 11-13)
- Alternative provisions (AP)
- Guidance on exclusions
Why does it matter?
It’s easy for home educating parents to be out of touch with the problems and pressures faced by schools. This short report provides an overview of reasons for the recent rise in exclusions, and evidences a genuine concern for children for whom exclusion has negative consequences into adulthood. It concludes by urging a “more fundamental review” (although guidance has only been updated recently) and stating ADCS’s desire for a system which rewards inclusion.
Why did ADCS welcome the opportunity to submit evidence to the government’s review of school exclusion? “Persistent disruptive behaviour” is now cited as the most common reason for exclusion, with certain sub-groups deemed more likely to face exclusion than others. Changes to “funding, school structures and accountability” play their part too, with pressures to drive up standards against a background of stringent inspections and falling budgets. With decreased funding for pastoral care, “individual pupils, particularly those with complex health and social care needs, are at a growing risk of falling out of mainstream education”.
Concern is also voiced that children slip under the radar due to “borderline-improper or actually unlawful strategies such as part-time timetabling, managed moves, encouragement to home school or other types of informal exclusion activity which is not captured in national datasets” [emphasis added]
Point 11 cites evidence found by the Children’s Commissioner of “schools encouraging parents to educate their children at home without formally recording this as an exclusion”. One participant in the study is quoted thus: “The educated at home is a massive loophole, because certainly in my previous life there was one school that actually had a letter that they used quite often that they took round to the house and said ‘I will educate my child at home, sign here’. And so, they were off the school roll and supposedly educated at home.” ADCS members quite rightly express concern that “this practice, though not widespread, is becoming more common.”
A respondent to a 2017 ADCS survey on home schooling is quoted as saying, “Parents of Year 9, 10 and 11 students who EHE at this late stage for the first time increasingly report an ‘unresolved difficulty’ with an academy as a the [sic] key reason or motive. It can include the threat of attendance penalty notices or behavioural issues linked to the potential for further exclusions. Increasingly some parents allege that EHE is suggested to them… These parents invariably say they do not know what EHE entails.” Such comments of course then reinforce concerns already held by LAs and Ofsted.
What can I do?
Like it or not, this version of home education now has a high profile, and we should be familiar enough with this aspect of “off-rolling” to be able to comment wisely on the issue.
Read the ADCS submission – it is not long. Keep your ear to the ground for any local reports of schools playing the involuntary home education card as a tactic to offload challenging pupils for whatever reason.
Be aware of how all this negatively impacts the general perception of home education. In one to one conversations and when you meet your MP, be sure to make a clear distinction between those who are elective home educators and those who are coerced into doing so.
We all know that good home education requires fully committed parents.