Sal Brinton: Helping the children trapped in an educational neverland

Baroness Sal Brinton today leads a debate in the Lords on what is being done to ensure that pupils who have not been formally excluded but are not attending school are being provided with a full-time education. Far from being a peculiar issues, there is a serious question about children trapped in an educational neverland, she writes here

Baroness Brinton
Baroness Brinton

Today we have a short lunch-hour debate in the House of Lords on educational provision for children out of school, but not formally excluded. This may seem slightly peculiar, but I have become increasingly concerned that a number of children fall through the cracks of our education system, and there is no-one really monitoring their education, or (in some cases) lack of it.

I’ve met a number of children who have missed large chunks of school because of serious illness. You might think that they don’t want to think about school, but the ones I spoke to certainly did care.

One young student  I talked to was diagnosed with cancer aged 14 and missed almost a full year. She was keen to do what she could when she felt up to it, but there was no coordination between her school, the home tutor, or the hospital school. One teacher at school kept in touch, but that was more by his personal interest than a planned action. It’s almost as if once out of school for a reason, there is no formal mechanism to ensure these pupils get appropriate support, nor that the school has to talk to the other providers, such as a hospital school.

Another young girl I met has serious allergies, causing anaphylaxis shock. Her appeal to go to her local school was refused “because it wasn’t a medical condition”.  But staff at the school also said they would refuse to use the epi-pen if she went into shock, so she couldn’t attend, and spent months at home.

The same is true for children so severely bullied that they are terrified of going to school, and can’t concentrate on learning. This can be for homophobic bullying, bullying because of race, disability or even because of the death of a parent. There is now a substantial body of evidence to show that if these children are supported properly, with home learning and specialist alternative provision for a few months, many of them can pick up their education at a different school or college, and many do well. However, for those where the school still insists the child should come back in as “there isn’t any bullying at their school” these children have a very low level of achievement, with long term depression.

I’d like the Government and Ofsted to ask the difficult question of schools: what are you doing for children hovering in a neverland neither present in school, but not formally excluded? They deserve the same chances as everyone else.

 

Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.

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