Cinderella Services – Children deserve Better!
Schools should consider drafting in voluntary sector support as a substitute for education welfare services, the director of the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) has claimed.’ (1)
Highly trained professionals, skilled in recognizing children’s needs and helping them succeed are losing their jobs, up and down the country. More and more schools are becoming Academies, Local Education Authorities are being broken up. Next year primaries will be becoming Academy Schools and our LEAs will be more or less a thing of the past.
But it’s not just about schools. Behind every school we have had specialist support services which can make all the difference to a child struggling to attend school.
We can include the education welfare officers, educational psychologists, subject advisors, Special Education teachers, Youth Services, EOTAS Tutors, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS). The government said it would protect front line services, but these are essential to the education sector.
All of these services are being cut, and many skilled people are facing unemployment. These are highly trained professionals, all experienced at working together and with schools for the good of children. But soon this will be no more. Gone. Just more numbers on the unemployment figures.
When the Coalition came to power we were all told that cuts to public services were necessary; all this is because of spending of the previous Labour Government. Yes, we’ve all heard those arguments – that austerity measures are necessary, that cutting out dead wood was needed, and then all would be wonderful again once George Osborne had pruned a little here and there. I have to say that it doesn’t seem at all to me that his policies are helping anyone or anything at all – least of all the economy!
It’s certainly not working for children either. We may have been told that front line services would not be cut, but just like the NHS, the support for vulnerable children is being cut back, dismantled, and set aside. All for nothing.
Following the publication of the think-tank’s report into educational exclusion, (Sponsored by Regatta) Gavin Poole told CYP Now that voluntary sector organisations could be better placed to help schools tackle truancy and exclusions than local authority-run services.
“The most progressive and supportive local authorities and the most forward-thinking and visionary school leaders are investing in voluntary sector provision, because they recognise that can provide a really good level of support to their school, which up until now may have cost the state more to provide,” he said.
Truanting children most likely to be picked up by the Police are from Academy Schools rather than LEA schools. This is because the Academies do not ‘buy into’ support services which other schools receive from the LEA. It seems that they think they can do all this themselves on the cheap or find some voluntary organisation or volunteers to replace professionals.
Most schools with the lowest attendance records, including the seven worst in the country, were academies that had been created to turn around failing schools.
The figures were published as part of GCSE league tables designed to inform parents which are the best and worst performing schools in their area.
At Manchester Creative and Media Academy for Boys, some 21.5 per cent of the school’s 602 pupils missed at least one day’s worth of classes per week while nine per cent of all lesson time was lost to absence, 3.5 per cent of it due to truancy.
Barry Fishwick, executive principal, said the figures related to May last year, just eight months after the failing school was made into an academy in a bid to turn it around.
This think-tank hasn’t thought this out at all, quite frankly. Recent truancy sweeps have been picking up children not attending school, mostly from Academies. And why? Because these very schools are not supported by Central LEA services in the same way which other schools are. One of the key functions of those services is monitoring attendance. David Cameron’s idea is cut the benefits from families of truanting children. Very clever. Cold and hungry children don’t learn. They just curl up and die.
SO WHY AREN’T CHILDREN GOING TO SCHOOL ANYWAY?
Many young people who are not attending school are not truants. Some of them are not attending school because they are caring for a parent because there is no one else at home. Professional caring services need to be provided to ensure these children can get to school.
A young carer is anyone under 18 who provides unpaid care or support for a family member or friend who has a physical or mental health condition, is disabled or misuses drugs or alcohol.
It is estimated that there are 175,000 young carers in the UK, but the Princess Royal Trust for Carers say that the real figure could be much higher than this.
As well as supporting the person they look after, a young carer may also be responsible for household tasks such as food shopping, cooking or cleaning, and for helping to look after other siblings. In some cases, a young carer might need to take on tasks that would normally be seen as an adult’s responsibility, such as managing the household budget.
- Other children are too frightened to go to school. They exhibit EBSR, which is very different to truancy and can be identified as such. Such children can thrive with specialist support, and must be given a chance.
• Severe difficulty in attending school—often amounting to prolonged absence
• Severe emotional upset—shown by such symptoms as excessive fearfulness, undue tempers, misery, or complaints of feeling ill without obvious organic cause on being faced with the prospect of going to school.
• Staying at home with the knowledge of the parents, when they should be at school, at some stage in the course of the disorder.
• Absence of significant anti-social disorders such as stealing, lying, wandering, destructiveness and sexual misbehaviour.
- Other children are too ill to attend school. Children with leukaemia, ME/CFS, or kidney disease may need specialised support, and perhaps lessons at home. A child who is terminally ill has a right to education. Services which provide it must be protected.
“LEAs have a duty to provide suitable education for children of compulsory school age who cannot attend school due to illness or injury. This education might be provided in a number of ways, for example in hospital schools, in pupil referral units, at home or through a combination of these. Mainstream schools have a vital part to play in supporting the education of sick children on their roll.”
They are either focussed on League Tables, or some sponsor or other. It’s just not in their interest to care about the weak, the vulnerable, the ill.
Cinderella services starved of cash will be the norm. Maybe these are deliberately pre-programmed to fail in order to whisk in some Prince Charming company (Regatta Clothing?) ready to pick up the pieces, the pennies and the pounds. Or maybe Academies will turn a blind eye. Children not seen will not be heard. Out of sight and out of mind. The rot has started. We can stop it now. We must.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING:
CSJ: NB: The CSJ’s document on Education Exclusion is sponsored by a clothing company. Why?:
2. Truancy worse at Academies , Daily Telegraph
3. A National Caring Service Think Left
4. EBSR, Think Left (Emotionally Based School Refusal)
5. ME/CFS Somebody Help ME Think Left
6. Consortia , not Free Schools or Academies Think Left