From education to employment

Further plans to level up opportunities for every child – Sector Response

New measures to make sure children are getting the quality of education they deserve are being announced today (Thursday 03 February), as the government continues its drive to level up opportunities for every child and family across the country:

  1. Plans confirmed for register of children not in school so no child can ‘fall through the cracks’
  2. New proposed guidance to give heads greater support on behaviour to achieve positive school cultures
  3. Largest ever round of up to 300 schools to be selected for School Rebuilding Programme to provide new, modern facilities fit for the future

Today’s package is the latest in a string of announcements this week to help level up across the country, following the publication of the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper, including plans for targeted education support in 55 lower performing areas such as Bolton, Luton and Rochdale.

Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said:

“Education is at the heart of this government’s plans to level up, ensuring that every child has the opportunity to succeed no matter where they grow up or what their background.

“While the majority of children already learn in a calm and well-maintained classroom, and some learn at home with dedicated parents, there are areas across the country where high standards are not being met.

“As Education Secretary, it is my priority to make sure every child gets the start in life they deserve, which is why I’m announcing clearer guidance to help every school boost behaviour and new legislation to create the first local authority register for children not in school. Not only this, but our school rebuilding programme will ensure pupils can learn in state of the art facilities, giving them the best opportunity to thrive.”

Rachel de Souza 100x100

Children’s Commissioner Rachel D’Souza said:

“The register of children not in school is vital in making sure that we are able to keep children safe and engaged, wherever they are learning. The reason I’ve pressed for the roll-out of a national register is that it is all about ensuring children are safe, that they get the best education they can, helping to unlock doors to their future, and that those dedicated parents who choose to educate their children at home feel supported in doing so.

“What hundreds of thousands of children have told me is that they love school and are so pleased to be back in the classroom. Nothing made them value school more than the face-to-face education they’d missed so much during lockdown – they are happy to be back with their friends and teachers.

“There are however too many children who, for many reasons, have not come back to school or are not attending consistently and regularly. All of us working with children need to redouble our efforts to get all children back in the classroom – we should all know where all our children are, that they are safe, and getting the best education and support we can offer.”

Register of children not in school

The government has today confirmed it will go ahead with the creation of a register for children not in school at the earliest available legislative opportunity, alongside plans to give schools greater support on behaviour and rebuild hundreds more school buildings across the country.

Action to increase attendance is already underway via the Department’s alliance of education leaders, including the Children’s Commissioner, to make sure no child is lost from the system.

The new duty on local authorities to maintain a register of children not in school will help them spot and support young people in the rare cases they may be receiving an unsuitable education, for example at an unregistered school.

The vast majority of home education is already done well, but particularly in light of the pandemic contributing to a rise in children not being educated in school, the government will support local authorities to make sure they know where every child is being educated, that it is of the right quality, and that support is offered to home educating families.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“NAHT has long called for a register of children not in school, so this is a move we welcome.

“Previously there has been no legal obligation for a parent to provide any notification to a school about the withdrawal of a child to be home educated. While it may only be a small sub-set of individuals who choose, for a variety of reasons, not to engage with the authority, from a safeguarding perspective this could obviously put a child at risk, with neither school nor local authority knowing for certain what has happened to that child.

“Without an officially maintained register, there is a potential risk of children becoming lost in the system. Our members have also raised concerns about children being moved across local authority boundaries without notice – it is vital that information can be shared to ensure that young people do not slip through the net. Having a national register should ensure that information sharing can occur quickly and accurately, helping to better safeguard children and young people.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“The government’s proposal to introduce a register of children not in school is long overdue and something that the education sector will welcome.

“We recognise that many parents successfully and safely educate their children at home, but this is a huge undertaking, and the number of home-educated children has increased during the pandemic in families where there are health concerns

“It does not seem unreasonable then to at least have a national register of children who are out of school so that children do not simply disappear from the system.

“We hope that this will give greater assurance that support can be targeted effectively when it is needed and we look forward to hearing more detail in due course.

New guidance for schools on tackling behaviour

The government is also providing greater support on behaviour for headteachers to create calm, orderly, safe and supportive environments for children and young people to thrive in.

A consultation on revised guidance will open today to give headteachers clearer support on maintaining that positive culture, and advice on responding to behaviour incidents online.

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary

Mr Whiteman said: “We need to remember that in the vast majority of schools there are no major issues when it comes to behaviour, and that schools already have strong systems in place for supporting good behaviour.

“The government’s current obsession with being seen to ‘talk tough’ on behaviour is frankly unhelpful. There is little need for much in the way of additional guidance at this point in time as schools are already highly skilled in this work. Instead, what the government should be focusing on is making sure that vital support services are available to support schools and pupils when they need it. It is important to find out if there is an underlying cause for an individual child’s behaviour, whether it be mental wellbeing, undiagnosed SEND, or problems at home.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“School and college leaders will be astonished that the government thinks it knows best how to create calm, orderly, safe and supportive environments for children and young people to thrive in, as this is what they and their staff work incredibly hard every single day to achieve.

“Leaders and teachers know their pupils and students better than anyone else and are best placed to handle the behavioural challenges that inevitably come their way.

“What school and college leaders need is much greater support over the factors which can lead to challenging behaviour, such as better provision for families in need, more and better targeted funding for children with special educational needs, and increased investment in tackling a spiralling mental health crisis.

“We now need to see more detail in order to understand what the government is trying to achieve and whether the support it is promising will be of practical use to school and college leaders.”

Banning mobile phones in schools

The revised behaviour guidance also makes clear that heads are best placed to make decisions on whether mobile phones should be in classrooms, considering the needs of their pupils. There will also be more consistent guidance to support headteachers with decisions about exclusions, making sure they are used in a proportionate and fair way.

Sarah Hannafin, senior policy advisor for school leaders’ union NAHT, who gave evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee during its inquiry into the impact of social media and screen use on young people’s health, said:

“Mobile phone bans work for some schools but there isn’t one policy that will work for all schools. Outright banning mobile phones can cause more problems than it solves, driving phone use ‘underground’ and making problems less visible and obvious for schools to tackle.

“Ultimately, schools work to prepare young people for the outside world, giving them the awareness and strategies to responsibly monitor their own screen use and the ability to identify and deal with any negative impacts or problematic content they encounter.

“So we’re pleased to see the Education Secretary stating that individual schools are best placed to make their own rules when it comes to mobile phones in schools, according to what works best for their own communities.”

School Rebuilding Programme

The flagship School Rebuilding Programme, announced by the Prime Minister in 2020 and with £2bn to be invested in 100 rebuilds already, is also entering its most intensive phase. Applications are being invited for the first time for the selection of up to 300 of the programme’s 500 total projects this decade, transforming the lives of hundreds of thousands of students across the country, providing facilities fit for the future of education.

Following a public consultation on how the Department will prioritise schools for the School Rebuilding Programme, up to 300 schools, rather than the usual 50, will be selected for participation in the programme later this year. This will give schools and families assurances that they have been prioritised for future investment.

The Programme will continue to start delivery on 50 new projects each year, with 100 already in progress from selection rounds from last year.

For the first time in the Programme, the bodies responsible for running schools such as local authorities and academy trusts will be able to provide additional evidence of their buildings’ condition need, making sure the selection harnesses local knowledge, helping level up where the need is greatest across the country.

The application process has been made as simple as possible and full guidance has been published today on making a quality application.

All projects in the School Rebuilding Programme are built to the latest construction standards, resilient to climate risks, net-zero in operation, and include modern facilities to support a world-class education from classrooms and science labs, to sports halls and dining rooms.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“We welcome this investment in school rebuilding projects and the invitation for applications from a greater number of schools. However, we remain concerned that the government lacks a coherent strategy for dealing with the £11.4 billion backlog of remedial work that has been identified in the school estate according to its own figures.

“Its methods of delivering capital funding to address these problems are a long way short of what is needed and rely on a very complex series of funding streams which include schools having to bid for pots of money. The system needs to be better resourced and simplified in order to ensure that every school building is a suitable learning environment for children and young people.”


New register to help all children get the education they deserve

2nd Apr 2019: Landmark proposals for a register of all children not being educated in school, including those being taught at home, are to be set out by Education Secretary Damian Hinds today (Tuesday 2 April 2019).

The Government is consulting on proposals which will, for the first time, provide a clear picture of where children are if they are not in school. Estimates suggest almost 60,000 children are deemed to be educated at home – a figure that is thought to be rising by around a quarter every year.

A register of children not in school will transform a local council’s capacity to identify and intervene where the standard of a child’s education isn’t good enough or, in the rare instances, where they are at risk of harm. It will also help the authorities spot young people who may be receiving a solely religious education, attending an unregistered school or not receiving an education at all.

The Department is also proposing new measures to support parents who choose to educate their children at home, in the form of a legal duty for local authorities to provide assistance like helping to pay for exam costs and more. 

Damian Hinds 750x570

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said:

“The term ‘home education’ has now acquired a much broader meaning than it used to. It is now a catch-all phrase, used to refer to all children not in a registered school. So whilst this does include those actually getting a really good education at home, it also includes children who are not getting an education at all, or being educated in illegal schools where they are vulnerable to dangerous influences – the truth is, we just don’t know.”

“As a Government, we have a duty to protect our young people and do our utmost to make sure they are prepared for life in modern Britain. That’s why this register of children not in school is so important – not to crack down on those dedicated parents doing an admirable job of educating their children in their own homes, but to prevent vulnerable young people from vanishing under the radar.”

Under the plans, it will be parents’ responsibility to register their child if they are not being taught in a state-funded or registered independent school.

The Government is also consulting on proposals that would require local authorities to provide support such as teaching resources or financial contributions to exam fees – at parents’ request.

Damian Hinds continued:

“Parents who choose to teach their children at home have often made huge sacrifices – even giving up their careers – so that they can do what is best for their families. I want to make those parents’ lives easier and help them provide the best education for their children.

“I also want to hear from home educating parents so we can understand what support they would benefit from and how we can help them and their children flourish.” 

The Government is also publishing today guidance for local authorities and for parents that clarifies their powers and responsibilities under current law, setting out the action councils can take if they have concerns a child is not receiving a suitable education. This includes school attendance orders – a legal power that already exists, compelling parents to send their child to a registered school.

For parents, the guidance sets out considerations they should make when deciding whether home education is the right choice for them and their child.

Today’s consultation follows a call for evidence carried out last year which collected views from across the sector. The consultation will be open for 12 weeks until Monday 24 June.

Amanda Spielman, HM Chief Inspector, Ofsted

Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said:

“These proposals offer an important opportunity to make sure that all children not attending school are safe, and receiving an education that prepares them for adult life.

“Ofsted has long had concerns about the increasing numbers of school-age children not attending a registered school, many of whom may not be receiving a high quality education or being kept safe. We are especially concerned about children ‘off-rolled’ from schools, and those in illegal schools. The new register will make it easier to detect and tackle these serious problems.”

Anne Longfield 750x570

Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, said:

“The number of children who are not being educated in school has rocketed over recent years. For some families, educating at home will be a positive choice but many more children are falling out of school and their parents struggling on their own.  

“It is vitally important that we know that all children are safe and that they are receiving the education they deserve to help them to succeed in life. The introduction of a register for children not in school is very welcome and something I been calling for. I am pleased these proposals also include support for families.”

Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, Cllr Anntoinette Bramble, said:

“The LGA has long-called for a register of children not in school and we look forward to seeing these proposals implemented as a matter of urgency. A register will help councils to monitor how children are being educated and prevent them from disappearing from the oversight of services designed to keep them safe.

“Councils fully support the rights of parents to educate their children in the best way that they see fit, and the vast majority of parents who home educate their children do a fantastic job, and work well with their local council to make sure that a good education is being provided.

“For the minority of children where this is not the case, councils need to be able to check a child’s schooling, to make sure they are being taught a suitable and appropriate education in a safe environment.

“This is why the Government needs to go further and change the law to give councils the powers and appropriate funding to enter homes or other premises to check a child’s schooling.

“Councils are keen to support families to make sure children get the best possible education, wherever they receive this. However, with children’s services facing a £3.1 billion funding gap by 2025, it is vital that any additional responsibilities for councils are properly funded.”

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“A register that identifies how children are being educated and under what circumstances could help ensure the safety of children and young people and prevent pupils dropping through the system through illegal off rolling from school registers. The most effective way for any register to work for the most vulnerable pupils would be for local authorities to manage and lead on the list but only if they are properly funded and resourced to do so.

“Damian Hinds also needs to deal with the school funding crisis that is seriously affecting the ability of schools and colleges to deal with children of all abilities and additional needs. Resources, support and funding are essential to this both within and outside of school. We also need an accountability system that does not penalise schools who are working with children with complex needs.”

The Liberal Democrat's Education Spokesperson Layla Moran

Liberal Democrat Education spokesperson Layla Moran said:

“Parents can decide to home school children for any number of reasons and most do a brilliant job. But undeniably, they need more support.

“Yet councils cannot offer this support if they don’t know where children are. A child who has never been on the school roll may simply be unknown to the local authority.

“If we want to ensure all families provide their children with an education that meets their needs, then these proposals are a welcome first step.”

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