Schools are increasingly ‘hiding’ children and young people who don’t ‘fit the box’; Children’s Quarter wants to improve the links between schools and communities so that ALL young people get a good education. We’ve been highlighting the way school exclusions are being used – and in November 2018 held a Children’s Quarter event on improving school-community links in Birmingham. Now, Ofsted chief, Amanda Spielman has warned that ‘off-rolling’, the process by which pupils are removed from schools without formal exclusions, has become a ‘huge cause for concern’. Research released earlier this year showed 19,000 pupils dropped off school rolls between years 10 and 11 between 2016 and 2017; half did not go on to attend another state-funded school. The Ofsted chief also criticised the ‘academisation’ of schools. We say the problem is getting worse, partly because the links between schools on one hand and families and communities on the other have declined.
One-in-four is vulnerable
Children with special needs are particularly affected. Ofsted’s report notes what we know from the experience of our members: support for SEND children is often ‘disjointed and inconsistent’; diagnoses take too long and are often inaccurate; the mental health needs of vulnerable young people are not being supported and children with autistic spectrum conditions can wait years for a diagnosis. This year, 2,060 children with an approved EHC (education, health and care) plan, setting out their needs, received no provision, no support, no care. These children and young people are disproportionately affected by repeated temporary exclusions and off-rolling, but we say their experience reflects wider problems – about a quarter of children are vulnerable to being socially isolated by their experience of school. Are we so so rich, or so stupid, as to write off one in four of young people before we’ve even got to college or work?
Children don’t grow in boxes…
We’re all different – which is why children, as individuals, need to be at the heart of education. As Prof Mick Waters, one of the speakers at Children’s Quarter in November 2018, says: Schooling is part of education, but not all education takes place in school. Families, communities, young people themselves also play a part in it alongside schools. But we’ve seen the links between schools and communities and families grow weaker: academisation hasn’t helped; a rigid curriculum, focus on league tables and the over-emphasis on testing has reduced schools’ scope to make links. It’s time to make repairing the links a priority. If we are serious about education transforming lives then we have to have individual children at the heart of it – as Hamilton School headteacher, Jon Harris, pointed out at Children’s Quarter in November this year. That’s why Children’s Quarter has launched a draft charter for improving school-community links that includes:
- enabling community groups to have affordable access to school premises
- improving schools’ and communities’ abilities to share information about what is going on locally
- creating shared access by schools and communities to training
- helping schools to enhance and extend the education they provide through community links
- enabling schools and communities to learn from each other through sharing staff and volunteers
- taking the opportunities for ‘lifelong learning’
- improving the way risk is managed and engendering a spirit of professional generosity.
Time for action!
Please download our Draft Charter and comment; read the presentations by Sir Tim Brighouse, Mick Waters, Jon Harris, Nasreen Hussain and Dr Jane O’Connor at Children’s Quarter on 20 November 2018; and have a look at the ideas in the Draft Charter in more detail and add your case studies and example and ideas of how to make school-communities links better.