On July 8th 2016 Ofsted published an Advice Letter from Sir Michael Wilshaw to Secretary of State Nicky Morgan. The first part of the letter relates specifically to Birmingham. Sir Michael then goes on to consider WIDER issues safeguarding. Sir Michael wants the Government to conclude its proposed reforms to track children coming out of school and also to “support” Ofsted in additional monitoring of local councils where children are at risk of extremism and radicalisation.
Sir Michael draws attention to children
- whose whereabouts are unknown
- attending illegal unregistered schools
- attending legal independent faith schools
- being home educated where the council has not sufficiently considered safeguarding issues
In relation to children who have gone missing, Sir Michael says
Inspectors also found that staff [in Birmingham] are too slow in checking the whereabouts of children missing from education. Too few children are traced and those who remain missing are simply being removed from the council’s records. Between September 2015 and January 2016, the council removed 253 children from their list of missing children without locating their whereabouts.
Sir Michael questions the council’s priorities for home educated children We also found that checks made on children whose parents have elected for them to be educated at home are not rigorous enough. Home visits by council staff focus on educational provision and do not give sufficient attention to safeguarding issues.
Sir Michael reminds the Government of his concerns about independent schools (both legal and illegal)
In previous advice letters, I have highlighted the potential risks to those children who are being educated at home or in unregistered schools, as well as those attending some independent faith schools.
Sir Michael reiterates that there is a problem with children taken out of school during the school year. Government proposals to address this issue have stalled because of the EU referendum disruption and Sir Michael is NOT happy. I have also identified issues around the ineffective tracking by some local authorities of pupils who are taken out of mainstream schools at points other than the usual transition dates.
Sir Michael points to other councils, indicating that this isn’t just a Birmingham problem I have recently visited both Bradford and Luton to learn more about the level and quality of safeguarding in these areas. In Bradford, I was accompanied by Louise Casey, who, as you know, is leading a government review into opportunity and integration in some of our most isolated communities.
From my meetings with senior officials and elected councillors from both local authorities, it was clear that much more needs to be done to ensure that the possible risks to certain groups of children are fully understood and acted on. We found a number of troubling gaps in their knowledge relating to:
- how all schools, and independent schools in particular, were discharging their ‘Prevent’ duties
- the monitoring of children who were being home-educated
- the number of children who may be attending unregistered schools
- the whereabouts of pupils who have been removed from school rolls in year.
Last year, your department published a revised version of ‘Working together to safeguard children’. The very first line of this clarifies the primacy of the role of local authorities in safeguarding children.
‘Local authorities have overarching responsibility for safeguarding and promoting the welfare of all children and young people in their area.’
On the basis of my meetings with the local authorities in Birmingham, Bradford and Luton, as well as my discussion with school leaders, I am far from assured that these responsibilities are being adequately carried out.
At the close of his letter Sir Michael AGAIN objects to the delay in finalising the proposed reforms for tracking children who come out of school I am particularly concerned about the failure of these local authorities to address the problem of children missing from education and to satisfy themselves that these children are not being exposed to harm, exploitation or the risk of falling under the influence of extremist views. I welcome the government’s recent consultation on this issue. I understand that changes to regulations take time but, in my view, this is an urgent and escalating problem.
Sir Michael wants the Government to “support” (presumably financially) Ofsted to carry out ADDITIONAL MONITORING FOR RADICALISATION AND EXTREMISM, on top of NEW Ofsted investigations into illegal schools, PLUS the usual Ofsted inspections of safeguarding, quarterly monitoring of inadequate LAs, school improvement, deep dive inspections and new inspections of provision for children with special needs Recommendation
I therefore recommend, Secretary of State, that you support Ofsted by agreeing that one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors should be assigned to any local authority area where the government considers children are at a greater risk of radicalisation or their safety is being put in jeopardy by poor safeguarding practices.
Subject to your agreement, the assignment would enable Ofsted to closely monitor the effectiveness of the local authority in carrying out its statutory safeguarding duties towards all children of school age whether they are attending school, missing from school or being educated at home. These designated HMI would report termly to you as the Secretary of State for Education and to me as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION ON MY WEBSITE
2016 Government proposals for improved tracking of children coming out of school LINK
What is the problem with illegal unregistered schools LINK