Teach truants at home

Parents encouraged to tutor absentee children or risk official exclusion, Estyn told

PARENTS OF persistent truants are being encouraged to tutor their children at home or risk their child being officially excluded, it has been claimed.

Welsh inspectorate Estyn says there is mounting evidence that the irregular practice of "unofficial exclusions" is being used by some schools that want troublesome pupils off their school rolls.

It calls on local authorities to take a tougher stance on the small number of schools it says are flouting protocol.

"A few schools are engaging in what can loosely be called unofficial exclusions," says the report.

But Dr Phil Dixon, of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers Cymru, said: "I think we have to face facts on this one and admitJearlier intervention is needed to tackle bad behaviour and absenteeism before it gets to the exclusion stages.

"There is growing evidence that home tutoring is no longer the domain of theJecology-friendly middle classes "There are schools which are telling the parents of problem pupils to keep them home unofficially or face being permanently excluded."

Estyn was asked to look at the monitoring of pupils of compulsory school age who were educated outside schools. Children who had gone missing, or were being taught outside local authority-maintained schools, were the focus of the investigation.

Inspectors found that most LAs are effective when children are placed in registered provision or educated at home.

But they were highly critical of LAs which continue to use pupil referral units that are not registered with the government.

Guidance issued in 2004 says all PRUs must be registered, but the report maintains that there are still high numbers unregistered.

It was a struggle for LAs to show that the children are receiving the legal requirement of 25 hours' education per week in these unregistered settings.

The report gives the example of an unnamed LA where 300 pupils, mainly at key stage 4, were being educated at unregistered sites.

Best practice in the monitoring of children missing from education is more apparent in some LAs than others, says the report. The most successful share information with police, social services and health professionals.

Most LAs, Estyn found, have a named officer responsible for missing children, and the best ones actively search for children, checking school registers and making sure they are accounted for.

But only a quarter of authorities that took part in an accompanying Estyn survey could name the person, the report says.

A small minority also did not know about the Lost Pupil Database, which provides information on pupils who leave a school with no known destination.

But Estyn was favourable in its verdict of local authority monitoring of home tutoring, claiming plenty of designated officers were regularly in contact with parents.

* Local authority practice in monitoring the location of pupils being educated outside the school setting and those missing from education can be found at: www.estyn.gov.ukabout_estynwhats_new.asp

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