Pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) are most at risk of being excluded, with some schools asking parents to keep their children at home because their needs cannot be met, Ofsted has said.
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The regulator’s annual report, published today, said it was a concern” that the first 30 SEND inspections had revealed exclusion rates for SEND children were high in a third of council areas and half recorded poor attendance.
Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman described the practice of “off-rolling” - the unnecessary removal of a pupil from a school roll into another form of education provision – as an “extreme and invidious example of where some schools have lost sight of the purpose of education, which should always be to give children the support that they deserve”.
She said instances of parents being asked to keep their children at home constituted the “worst cases” of off-rolling, describing them as an “inexcusable” practice that “shames our education system.”
Ms Spielman added: “Dealing with students with different needs isn’t always easy but simply passing the job to parents, who rarely have the right professional expertise, is passing the buck.
“Children with SEND are not a problem to be pushed out of sight and out of mind.”
Under the Children and Families Act 2014, councils are required to ensure that education, health and care needs for children with SEND are met by schools and other agencies. However, they cannot require a school to accept a child as a pupil.
Responding to the report, Richard Watts (Lab), chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said councils must be allowed to direct all schools to take vulnerable pupils if it is in the child’s interests.
He added: “The LGA was clear with government from the outset that SEND reforms set out in the Children and Families Act were significantly underfunded.
“There is increasing concern among councils that at a time of rising demand, they will be unable to meet the needs and expectations of children and families in their areas.”
Councils also have a legal responsibility for making appropriate education provision for children in young offending institutions, but have no powers to ensure children in these institutions receive the support they need.
Of the three secure training centres inspected since the last Ofsted annual report, Medway and Oakhill were judged to be inadequate and Rainsbrook was rated requires improvement.
Ofsted also contributed to the HMI Prisons inspection of Fetham young offenders institution, which found it was not safe for staff or boys, and found 19,000 hours of schooling were lost due to missed classes.
Cllr Watts said: “We are deeply concerned for children who are currently in youth offending institutions.
“The fact that HM Inspector of Prisons found that not a single establishment inspected in England and Wales was safe to hold children and young people earlier this year makes their chances of a good education even less likely. This is unacceptable.”