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
    time.

    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
      in schools from www.dfes.gov.uk

     

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