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London Safeguarding Children Board: Child Protection Procedures 5th Edition London SCB Powered by tri.x Powered by tri.x
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4. Not Attending School

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Contents

4.1

Introduction

4.2

Child Registered at School who goes Missing

4.3

Children with Poor, Irregular or Interrupted School Attendance

4.4

Children who are Vulnerable or at Risk of Harm

4.5

Reasonable Enquiry

4.6

Children of School age who are not Registered with a School

4.7

Children of School age who are Educated at Home but where there are Concerns about their Welfare


4.1

Introduction

 

4.1.1

A minimum standard of safety should be afforded to children not attending school. This includes four groups of children:

  • Children who are registered with schools and who are or go missing from school, and give rise to concern about their welfare (these children may be classified as missing, whereabouts unknown);
  • Children who are poor attendees at school or who have interrupted school attendance;
  • Children of school age who are not registered with a school;
  • Children of school age who are educated at home but where there are concerns about their welfare.

4.1.2

This section should be read in conjunction with the London procedure: Children Missing from Care, Home and Education and the Children missing education - Statutory guidance for local authorities November 2013 issued by the DfE


4.2

Child Registered at School who goes Missing


Initial response

4.2.1

On the first day a child is not in school without a valid reason (e.g. a telephone call or letter from the parent giving a valid explanation), a staff member trained to do so should telephone the child's parent / home to seek reasons for the absence and reassurance from a parent that the child is safe at home.

4.2.2

If contact is made with the parent and the child is missing, the staff member should advise the parent to contact all family and social contacts, the police and services such as the local accident and emergency departments and the child's GP.

4.2.3

If contact cannot be made with the parent or the staff member is concerned about the response they receive (e.g. the parent not informing the people listed above), the staff member should consider, with the school's designated safeguarding children professional, the degree of vulnerability of the child to decide on whether any further action is required at this stage (see Children who are Vulnerable or at Risk of Harm). Any decision not to act should be reviewed on each subsequent day the child is absent.


4.3

Children with Poor, Irregular or Interrupted School Attendance


Initial response

4.3.1

On the first day a child is not in school, the procedures outlined in Child Registered at School who goes Missing should be followed.

4.3.2

If contact is made with the parent and the child is not missing from home, the member of staff will follow their school procedures for children who are absent. However, if they are concerned about the welfare of the child (and this is likely to be the case if there is any reason to doubt the reason given by the parent for the child's absence from school), the staff member should discuss the case with the school's designated safeguarding children professional.

4.3.3

Schools must have systems for monitoring attendance, and where children are attending irregularly the LA education welfare or school attendance service should be notified to ensure the child is safe. The Government threshold for concern about school attendance is that 20 per cent plus non-school attendance raises concern about a child's education. Most LA education services therefore use this threshold for referral to education welfare and school attendance services. The local authority has a range of legal powers to enforce school attendance, including the prosecution of parents who fail to ensure that their children attend school regularly.

4.3.4

If a parent fails to comply with local authority efforts to ensure regular school attendance for a child, this must be viewed as a child welfare matter and a referral made to LA children's social care in line with Referral and Assessment Procedure.


4.4

Children who are Vulnerable or at Risk of Harm

 

4.4.1

When a child is absent or missing from school, they may have suffered, or are likely to suffer, significant harm through physical or sexual abuse. The child may be absent or missing because they are suffering physical, sexual or emotional abuse and / or neglect. See Responding to Concerns of Abuse and Neglect Procedure

Significant harm is defined in Responding to Concerns of Abuse and Neglect Procedure, Concept of significant harm as a situation where a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, a degree of physical, sexual and / or emotional harm (through abuse or neglect) which is so harmful there needs to be intervention by child protection agencies into the life of the child and their family.

Children who are absent or missing from school may also be missing from care or home. See Children Missing from Care, Home and Education Procedure.

4.4.2

Teachers, in consultation with the designated safeguarding children professional at the school, should make an immediate referral to LA children's social care in line with Referral and Assessment Procedure, if:

4.4.3

The family may be avoiding contact and therefore the quicker the response the more likely they will be traced. Delay may increase the risk of harm to the child.

4.4.4

Additional concerns may be caused if:

4.4.5

Safeguarding Children Missing from School (London Board, 2006) lists further questions to assist a judgement about a child's vulnerability.


4.5

Reasonable Enquiry


Day one

4.5.1

The process of 'reasonable enquiry' - [The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006, Regulation 8(h)(iii) requires schools and local authorities to make 'reasonable enquiries' to locate pupils who have been absent for 4 weeks or more before they can be deleted from the register.] - starts with the questions above as soon as the child is discovered to be missing (i.e. on the first day). After school staff have exhausted the avenues of enquiry open to them, the LA education welfare or school attendance service should continue checking databases within the local authority and other databases (e.g. housing, health and the police) with agencies known to be involved with the family, with the local authority the child moved from originally, and with any local authority to which the child may have moved.


Days two to twenty-eight

4.5.2

If the judgement on the first day of absence is that there is no reason to believe the child is at risk of harm and the school delays further action, the process of reasonable enquiry should be repeated and enhanced, including reviewing the responses to the causes for concern listed in Missing Families for whom there are Concerns for Children or Unborn Children Procedure, Strategy Meeting / Discussion, for up to four weeks. This should be undertaken jointly between the school and the local education welfare or school attendance service and / or the local authority designated person.


More than four weeks

4.5.3

If a child continues to be absent from school for four weeks and neither the school, the LA education welfare, school attendance nor children's social care service has been able to confirm any reason given for absence and there are concerns about the child's welfare, it is permissible under current regulations for the child's name to be removed from the school roll and for their details to be uploaded to the DfE s2s Lost Pupil Database. However, this would be very unusual in these circumstances.

4.5.4

If concerns remain in relation to the welfare of the child, the education welfare service and / or LA children's social care should continue to pursue reasonable enquiries in accordance with Children Missing from Care, Home and Education Procedure.

4.5.5

If the school, education welfare, school attendance or any other service or agency becomes aware that the child has moved to another school, that service should ensure all relevant agencies are informed in writing so arrangements can be made to forward records from the previous school.


4.6

Children of School age who are not Registered with a School

 

4.6.1

Children of school age who are not registered with a school share the same vulnerabilities as those outlined in Missing Families for whom there are Concerns for Children or Unborn Children.

4.6.2

Educational achievement contributes significantly to children's well-being and development; all children have a right to education and young children who reach school age or children already in education who move home should be supported to enrol in a new school as seamlessly as possible. This is particularly because children who move frequently are often already vulnerable through being looked after or in temporary accommodation.

4.6.3

Where parents appear not to have taken steps to ensure their child is registered with a school or receiving an appropriate education, the LA education welfare or school attendance service should make urgent enquiries about the child's welfare, and interview the child. If the parent fails to comply with LA efforts to place the child in school or to receive education in some other way and there are concerns that the child is suffering or is likely to suffer significant harm, this must be referred to LA children's social care as a child protection matter in line with Referral and Assessment Procedure.

4.6.4

This process should be initiated for all children, including those who are likely to remain in a borough only temporarily or whose stay in the UK is intended to be temporary (other than if a child is visiting for a short holiday).

In particular, this process should be implemented for children whose stay may originally be temporary but where they are privately fostered. See Children Living Away from Home Procedure, Private fostering.

4.6.5

Local authority areas with high numbers of new arrivals from abroad should ensure that parents are aware they are required to enrol their children in school or to receive education in some other way. The local authority must assist parents to do so. All authorities must maintain effective systems for monitoring that any children from abroad living in their area are attending school.

4.6.6

Any professional encountering a child of school age who does not appear to be in a school should ask the parent about this and, if the child is not on a school roll or they are concerned that the parent may be evasive about this issue, they must contact their agency's designated safeguarding children professional to discuss whether to make a referral to the LA education welfare or school attendance service.


4.7

Children of School age who are Educated at Home but where there are Concerns about their Welfare

 

4.7.1

The law allows parents of children in England and Wales to educate their child however they wish. The local authority has limited powers to intervene or even to be informed about this.

4.7.2

If a parent never registers their child at a school, they are not obliged to inform the local authority.

4.7.3

If a parent registers their child at an independent sector school and then withdraws their child from school to educate them at home, they are not obliged to inform the local authority. However the independent school is obliged to inform the local authority.

4.7.4

If the parent registers their child at a state maintained school, Academy or Free School and then withdraws their child to educate them at home, they are not obliged to inform the local authority. However, they are obliged to inform the state maintained school, Academy or Free School, which in turn is obliged to inform the local authority within two weeks of removing the child from the school roll.

4.7.5

Where the local authority is informed of a parent's desire to educate their child at home, they have limited powers but the parent is required to assure them about the nature and quality of the education they are giving to the child.

4.7.6

However, there may be circumstances where the parent is seeking to avoid agency intervention in the child's life to conceal abuse or neglect or where, however well meaning, their desire to educate their child at home may give rise to general concerns about the child's welfare.

4.7.7

In these circumstances, it may be necessary for LA children's social care to conduct an assessment into whether the child's needs are being met or whether they have suffered, or are likely to suffer, significant harm. See Responding to Concerns of Abuse and Neglect Procedure and Referral and Assessment Procedure.