Updated: Apr 20
This is an update on guidance issued January 2015 and will be reviewed by September 2019.
It applies to all schools, including academies and independent schools.
Though this document is aimed at Local Authorities, it contains much that is useful for schools. Particularly the key information on the use of CTF files (para 40-44) and guidance on the 15 grounds for deleting a pupil from the school admission register (page 20: Annex A), so it is essential reading for all in charge of school admission registers. Further important information for schools about attendance and Children Missing Education can be found in Annex A of Keeping Children Safe in Education, September 2016. This is substantially different from the version issued in May 2016, so make sure you are working from the latest version.
The document uses the underlying principle that all children are entitled to an efficient full time education and those who do not received this are ‘at significant risk of underachieving, being victims of harm, exploitation or radicalisation, and becoming NEET’ (para 20). Further, there is a need for effective communication between parents, schools and the Local Authority to ensure all children of school age are safe and receiving suitable education.
The 3 key areas covered in this guidance are
REMOVAL FROM A SCHOOL REGISTER
All schools, including Independent Schools, must notify the Local Authority when they remove a child’s name from the register, except at standard transition points. The notification must include
(a) the full name of the pupil,
(b) the full name and address of any parent with whom the pupil normally resides,
(c) at least one telephone number of the parent,
(d) the pupil’s future address and destination school, if applicable,
(e) the ground in regulation 8 under which the pupil’s name is to be removed from the admission register.
A child who has not returned to school for 10 days after an unauthorised absence or has been missing from a school for 20 consecutive days can be removed from the school register, though before removal the school and Local Authority are obligated to attempt to establish the child’s whereabouts.
Parents may withdraw children from school and educate them at home, unless they are subject to a SAO (School Attendance Order). However, the parent must notify the school, in advance, if they are withdrawing a child from school to home educate. The school then deletes the child from the register and must inform the Local Authority at the earliest possible opportunity. Where a parent indicates orally that they wish to home educate, the school should notify the Local Authority at that point, but may not delete them from the register until they receive the written notification.
Children with an EHCP can be home educated, but will still need an annual review to check that the education they are receiving is appropriate. I am interested who is to call this annual review and check on it, when so many SEND departments are so overstretched that they struggle to deal with the annual review paperwork being submitted to them by schools, never mind going and looking for it
2.INQUIRY AND IDENTIFICATION
Schools must monitor registers and inform the Local Authority of all children who fail to attend regularly,or who have missed 10 days or more without permission.
The school and the Local Authority must make reasonable enquires to establish the whereabouts of a child before they are deleted from the school admission register. This should include one or more of the following actions:
make contact with the parent, relatives and neighbours using known contact details;
check local databases within the local authority;
check Key to Success or school2school (s2s) systems;
follow local information sharing arrangements and where possible make enquiries via other local databases and agencies e.g. those of housing providers, school admissions, health services, police, refuge, Youth Justice Services, children’s social care, and HMRC;
check with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and/or the Border Force;
check with agencies known to be involved with the family;
check with local authority and school from which the child moved originally, if known;
check with any local authority and school to which a child may have moved;
check with the local authority where the child lives, if different from where the school is;
in the case of children of Service Personnel, check with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS);
home visit(s) made by appropriate team, following local guidance concerning risk assessment and if appropriate make enquiries with neighbour(s) and relatives.
The school must keep a record of their actions. There is a recognition that the type of reasonable enquiries required to try to locate a child will differ from case to case and additional enquiries may be necessary. Also, these enquiries may not always lead to establishing the location of the child, but will provide a steer on what action should be taken next, for example, contacting the police, social care and, in cases where there may be concerns for the safety of a child who has travelled abroad, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
The Local Authority has to establish the identity of those not registered as a pupil at a school and not receiving a suitable education. This can and should involve other agencies and requires prompt action and early intervention. This is a direct link to the new OFSTED handbook on inspecting unregistered schools.
Local Authorities need robust policies and procedures in this area, including an effective tracking and inquiry procedure and a named officer. Their duties include:
Responsibility for the education after the sixth day for any permanently excluded child. However, responsibility for the full time education for excluded pupils on a fixed term exclusion, including those who have been excluded for more than 6 days, remains with the school.Safeguarding;
Work with parents including School Attendance Orders (SAO), prosecutions and applying for Education Supervision Orders.
3. ADDING TO A SCHOOL REGISTER
Schools must notify the Local Authority, within 5 days, of adding a child to the register at a non-standard transition point and notification must include all details.
If a child fails to turn up on the notified day at a new school, the new school needs to undertake reasonable enquiries to locate the child and notify the Local Authority.
School registers need to be up to date and checked regularly. This places the responsibility to chase parents for changes of details on the school register, including telephone numbers. There is also an implication in this that registers may be checked by OFSTED. They will certainly want to see evidence that the school has taken appropriate actions in reporting and attempting to locate any child missing education.
There is a very useful list of children particularly at risk of missing education:
Pupils at risk of harm/neglect
Children of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) families
Children of Service Personnel
Missing children and runaways
Children and young people supervised by the Youth Justice System
Children who cease to attend a school
Children of new migrant families.
A FEW THOUGHTS:
It is the Local Authority who have a duty to maintain a record of school age children’s details until they are located elsewhere or attain school leaving age. The emphasis on the role of Local Authority as the organisation primarily responsible for ensuring children are accessing safe and ‘efficient’ education is interesting. Particularly, at a time when the Local Authority’s role is being reduced and undermined in all other areas of education.The duties to report a child being withdrawn from school to be home schooled are clear. What is less clear is how we are going to track and identify children who never start school? This seems a particular issue since the majority of children begin school below statutory school age and there is no requirement to report children’s moves between schools at standard transition points.Further, it seems to me that movement at the standard transition points is potentially a weak feature in this system. ‘Schools are only under a duty to provide information to the local authority for standard transitions, if a local authority requests that schools make such returns’ (para 28) Further, ‘there is no expectation for local authorities to request information from schools on pupils for standard transitions. Local authorities should consider carefully the benefits of having this information in meeting their duties in relation to children missing education and safeguarding, and assess the likely burden on schools and the local authority before deciding to do so.’ (para 30) However, this is a key point when a child could go missing from education, particularly when they move from the maintained to non-maintained sector or vice versa or move from one authority to another or started school below statutory school age.Equally, it does not seem to me to be clear which local authority a school should report to. The authority where the school is located or the authority where the child lives. This is a particularly an issue for non-maintained schools, though not exclusively.It is interesting that this guidance was release on the same day as the OFSTED Handbook for conducting inspections of unregistered schools and latest KCSIE guidance. There is a direct relationship with KCSIE, but there is an implied link with the OFSTED guidance and the extended safeguarding role of schools and Local Authorities. The links with the issues of radicalisation and children at risk of sexual exploitation is less explicit than in previous versions. Is this because it is taken as read or because the government has realised the wider risks inherent in poor school attendance?
Posted in: Safeguarding