Plan to smooth path back to school for young offenders could backfire

Proposals to make it easier for young offenders to return to
school on release from custody could have the opposite effect,
ministers have been warned.

Stephen Mason, president of the National Association of Social
Workers in Education, said more young offenders could be struck off
school registers as a result.

Under the plans, schools gain the discretion to strike pupils
off if they are serving a custodial sentence of more than two
months, even if they are receiving an education during that

This is intended to prevent young offenders on long sentences
“blocking” places for other pupils.

Currently, schools are forced to remove pupils from their
registers if they are serving a custodial sentence and have been
absent for four weeks. But if schools receive confirmation they are
being educated in custody then they are marked present and cannot
be struck off.

The proposals, unveiled by the government last week, purportedly
respond to difficulties young offenders have faced in returning to
education by ending the compulsion on schools to remove pupils
after the four-week absence elapses.

A spokesperson for the Department for Education and Skills said
the government assumed that schools would not strike off a child
who had been attending education in custody.

However, Mason said that many schools would not want to take
back young offenders.

“There is a possibility that [the proposals] could make it worse
and some schools begin to consider that they could take them [the
children] off role,” he said.

Lisa-Jayne Woolley, an in-house training manager for
rehabilitation agency Nacro, called the DfES’s assumption
“dangerous” and said it placed young offenders’ ability to return
to school at risk.

“There needs to be some kind of independent body or process to
make sure that the decision to strike them off the admissions
register is in the best interests of the child,” she added.

Sue Kirkham, president of the Secondary Heads Association, said
the change would make little difference as schools would act in the
best interests of young people’s education.

  • Review of the regulations governing the registration of pupils
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