15.7 Safeguarding children who are absent from education

Date of last review - Jan 2024

Date of next review- Jan 2026

Contents

Introduction

15.7.1

Children being absent from education for prolonged periods and/or on repeat occasions can act as a vital warning sign to a range of safeguarding issues including neglect, child sexual and child criminal exploitation - particularly county lines. It is important the school or college’s response to persistently absent pupils and children missing education supports identifying such abuse, and in the case of absent pupils, helps prevent the risk of them becoming a child missing education in the future. This includes when problems are first emerging but also where children are already known to local authority children’s social care and need a social worker (such as a child who is a child in need or who has a child protection plan, or is a looked after child), where being absent from education may increase known safeguarding risks within the family or in the community.

Suspensions and exclusions

15.7.2

Suspension and exclusion from school

The DfE guidance Suspension and permanent exclusion guidance September 2023 (publishing.service.gov.uk) sets out that only the head teacher of a school can suspend or exclude a pupil, and permanent exclusion must be a last resort and in response to a serious breach or persistent breaches of the school's behaviour policy; and where allowing the pupil to remain in school would seriously harm the education or welfare of the pupil or others in the school.

In considering the appropriate consequence for breaching the school’s behaviour policy, the headteacher should consider the following factors:

  • concerning behaviours can be an indication of safeguarding concerns, such as abuse or neglect, and removing the pupil from the protective factor of full-time education could be placing them at risk of harm
  • there may be an increased risk of child exploitation while the pupil is suspended/excluded
  • a sense of belonging is important for a pupil to feel safe and be able to engage with learning; suspension/permanent exclusion is a significant rejection, that often leads to disengagement, impacted peer relationships, school refusal and poor outcomes for the pupil
  • suspension and permanent exclusion place pressure on the family, and this could be a significant risk for children on the edge of care.
15.7.3

Best practice would be to prioritise the pupil’s safety and wellbeing when responding to breaches of the school’s behaviour policy.  It is important to engage the family and seek the views of the professional network around the pupil prior to a decision to exclude, and source alternatives to suspension/exclusion wherever possible

15.7.4

Should a headteacher decide to suspend or exclude a pupil open to social care the social worker must be informed without delay.  It is important to follow the local area’s guidance for informing the local authority of suspensions and exclusions for all pupils.

Reduced / part-time / re-integration timetables that go beyond 6 weeks

15.7.5

Reduced timetables

The DfE guidance 'Working Togther to improve school attendance' sets out that as a rule pupils should not be placed on reduced timetables as all pupils of compulsory school age are entitled to a full-time education. A reduced timetable means that the number of hours spent in education are reduced for a time limited period. A part-time timetable must only be in place for the shortest time necessary and not be treated as a long-term solution It is unlawful to impose a reduced timetable without parent/carer consent, this includes the social worker for Looked After Children.

15.7.6

In very exceptional circumstances there may be a need for a temporary part-time timetable to meet a pupil’s individual needs. For example, where a medical condition prevents a pupil from attending full-time education and a part-time timetable is considered as part of a re-integration package. A part-time timetable should not be used to manage a pupil’s behaviour.

15.7.7

There are risks associated with reduced timetables and these risks increase significantly over time, which is why a part-time timetable must not be treated as a long-term solution and should only be in place for a maximum of 6 weeks.

15.7.8

In considering whether a reduced timetable is appropriate, schools should consider:

  • removing the pupil from the protective factor of full-time education could be placing them at risk of harm where there are known, or unknown, safeguarding concerns
  • there may be an increased risk of child exploitation while the pupil is not in school
  • a sense of belonging is important for a pupil to feel safe and be able to engage with learning; reduced time in school often leads to disengagement, impacted peer relationships, school refusal and poor outcomes for the pupil
  • reduced timetables place pressure on the family, and this could be a significant risk for children on the edge of care.

 It is important to follow the local area’s guidance on reduced timetables, including engaging with local authority services.

Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND)

15.7.9

All partners have a responsibility to ensure that children and young people vulnerable to underachievement can access their full-time educational entitlement. Pupils with SEND, both with and without an Education Health and Care Plan, are more vulnerable to the impact of suspension, exclusion and a reduced education offer. A reduced education offer can place additional pressure on the family, leading to increased safeguarding risks and chance of family breakdown.

15.7.10

As well as following the best practice guidance set out in this document for all pupils, schools need to consider that:

  • schools have a statutory duty not to discriminate against pupils on the basis of protected characteristics, such as disability
  • disruptive behaviour can be an indication of unmet needs; where a school has concerns about a pupil’s behaviour, it should try to identify whether there are any causal factors and intervene early to prevent suspension and exclusion
  • under the Equality Act 2010 (the Equality Act), schools must not discriminate against, harass or victimise pupils because of disability; for disabled children, this includes a duty to make reasonable adjustments to policies and practices and the provision of auxiliary aids
  • it would be unlawful to exclude a pupil simply because they have additional needs or a disability that the school feels it is unable to meet
  • pupils with SEND are at increased risk of falling behind their peers; therefore, reduced timetables should be avoided, concerning attendance should be responded to without delay, and careful consideration should be given as to how parent/carers can meet any additional needs should they chose to Electively Home Educate - see  Elective Home Education 
  • schools should ensure that they are obtaining the pupil’s views, engaging services to support where there are cognitive or social communication barriers to expressing those views.

 

15.7.11

It is important to follow the SEND Code of Practice SEND_Code_of_Practice_January_2015.pdf (publishing.service.gov.uk) and the local area’s guidance on identifying and meeting the needs of pupils with SEND, including engaging with local authority services to remove any barriers to accessing full time education.

Children with medical conditions (including complex neuro-disability)

15.7.12

All schools have a duty to support children with medical needs to continue to access education according to: Supporting pupils at school with medical conditions (publishing.service.gov.uk)

'Pupils at school with medical conditions should be properly supported so that they have full access to education, including school trips and physical education.

  • Governing bodies must ensure that arrangements are in place in schools to support pupils at school with medical conditions.
  • Governing bodies should ensure that school leaders consult health and social care professionals, pupils and parents to ensure that the needs of children with medical conditions are properly understood and effectively supported’
15.7.13

Where there are safeguarding concerns regarding a pupil’s access to education relevant individuals in health, education and social care should be in contact to ensure that a clear plan is in place to re-engage the pupil with education.

15.7.14

Local authorities have a duty to provide education for children who are unable to access education at school and where the school is not able to provide an education under the duties above.

15.7.15

Where a school has concerns around a pupil’s attendance due to medical needs they should refer the concerns to the LA who will look at whether it is appropriate for the LA to provide an education or whether the school should, under the above guidance, look to adapt their learning offer to ensure a pupil’s continued engagement with learning at school.

15.7.16

Children who have an Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP) are entitled and should receive an annual review of their EHCP, especially if they have reduced school attendance.

15.7.17

Where the school has concerns regarding the pupil they should always have regard to  Keeping children safe in education  (publishing.service.gov.uk) and involve colleagues in other agencies in discussing the pupil such as:

  • The LA medical needs education support team in the relevant LA
  • Early help
  • School mental health services
  • Local CAMHS services
  • School nurses
  • Other local professionals linked to school

Children and young people open to Youth Justice Services (YJS)

15.7.18

All partners have a responsibility to ensure that children and young people vulnerable to exploitation and/or family breakdown can access the protective factor of their full-time educational entitlement. Pupils open to YJS are more vulnerable to the impact of suspension, exclusion and a reduced education offer, both for their immediate safeguarding and long-term outcomes.

15.7.19

As well as following the best practice guidance set out in this document for all pupils, schools need to consider that pupils open to YJS will be at significant increased risk of being drawn into further offending and child exploitation when they are not in school. Additional pressure is also placed on the family, increasing the risk of family breakdown. It is essential for schools to follow the local area guidance, including engaging with support services to ensure vulnerable pupils can access and engage with a full-time education offer.

15.7.20

It is important to refer to the local area’s Youth Justice Plan and any guidance on supporting pupils open to YJS, including engaging with local authority services to remove any barriers to accessing full time education.

Expectations on school attendance

15.7.21

The DfE attendance guidance 'Working togther to improve school attendance' states that ‘It is essential for pupils to get the most out of their school experience, including their attainment, wellbeing, and wider life chances…. For the most vulnerable pupils, regular attendance is also an important protective factor and the best opportunity for needs to be identified and support provided.’

15.7.22

Where a pupil is not in school then school governing bodies and school proprietors need to have regard to the statutory guidance ‘Keeping Children Safe in Education ‘ Keeping children safe in education  (publishing.service.gov.uk) and should ensure appropriate safeguarding responses are in place, particular where a child is not attending on repeat occasions. If there are concerns schools should use their professional judgement and consult their safeguarding lead on whether it is appropriate to escalate the concern to their local child protection services.

15.7.23

Schools are expected to make every effort under safeguarding expectations to contact parents and maintain contact where a pupil is not attending, offering support as necessary. They can also have recourse to statutory powers to enforce attendance (administered by the local authority) if that is appropriate and subject to the local attendance code of conduct. 

15.7.24

Local authorities should have their own guidance on school attendance and should publish a Code of Conduct in relation to attendance and ensure that they can fulfil statutory duties to promote good attendance, including administering fixed penalty notices, parenting orders and education supervision orders.

15.7.25

Schools also have a duty to inform the local authority that a pupil’s name is to be deleted from the admission register under strict prescribed grounds as soon as those grounds are met.

15.7.26

Persistent and chronic school absence

In addition to the expectations outlined above then where there is persistent absence (defined nationally as 90% or below) then, dependent on the individual circumstances, a bespoke multiagency approach may be appropriate. This may necessitate a team around the family or team around the child approach using appropriate local provision. This may include:

  • Early help
  • School mental health services
  • Local CAMHS services
  • School nurses
  • Other local professionals linked to school

 For chronic school absence the above guidelines are appropriate, and schools should use their professional judgement and consult their safeguarding lead on whether it is appropriate to escalate the concern to their local child protection services.

15.7.27

Mental health issues affecting attendance

The below document builds on the Working together to improve school attendance guidance, and should be read alongside the statutory guidance documents on parental responsibility measures, children absent from education, supporting children with medical conditions, suspensions and exclusions, alternative provision, and safeguarding.

A list of relevant links to further guidance is available at the end of the document.

The guidance below makes clear the expectations placed on school staff as well as academy trustees/governing bodies, parents/carers and Local Authorities (LAs) where there is a pupil experiencing social, emotional or mental health issues that are affecting attendance. This guidance applies to any pupils displaying any social, emotional or mental health issue that is affecting their attendance. It is not only for pupils who have a diagnosed mental disorder, or a disability or special educational need.

Mental health issues affecting a pupil's attendance: guidance for schools - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Elective Home Education

15.7.28

Please see -  Elective Home Education

Children and families who move across Safeguarding Children Partnership Boundaries

This page is correct as printed on Friday 24th of May 2024 04:51:30 PM please refer back to this website (http://sussexchildprotection.procedures.org.uk) for updates.