Education plans put young offenders at risk

Government proposals designed to make it easier for young
offenders to return to school on their release could have the
opposite effect, ministers have been warned, writes Amy

Stephen Mason, president of the National Association of Social
Workers in Education, said the proposals, issued last week, could
lead to more young offenders being struck off school admissions

Schools are currently 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 purportedly respond to difficulties young
offenders have faced in returning to education by ending the
compulsion on schools to delete pupils who have been
“absent” for more than four weeks.

However, they give schools the discretion to remove pupils from
their registers if they are serving a custodial sentence of more
than two months, even if they are receiving an education during
that time.

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

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

However Mason said that a significant number of schools would
not want to take young offenders back. “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, labelled the assumption as
“dangerous” and said that 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,
claimed that the change would make little difference as schools
would act in the best interests of young people’s

Review of the regulations governing the registration of pupils
in schools from:

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