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Agenda item

Children Missing Education


Susan Claydon, Early Help Head of Service, presented a report on Children Missing from Education (CME) which the Authority had responsibility to ensure were identified, reported and tracked so that suitable educational providers could be found.


The term “CME” referred to children of compulsory school who were not on a school roll and who were not receiving a suitable alternative education e.g. Elected Home Education.


Until recently the CME data had had gaps and required intensive work to ensure that consistent processes and data inputting were in place across the different systems used to capture CME information.


There had been a redesigning of the reporting function and the development of a new CME Performance Scorecard.  This development reduced the ability for rigorous comparative analysis to be drawn on previous years’ performance, however, put Rotherham in a stronger position to understand which of its CME cohort caused the most concern.  One of the key changes to CME reporting was to include predominant issues captured at the point of referral to CME to enable a better understanding of potential vulnerability.


The current position was as follows:-


-          There had been 188 children, from 116 families classified as ‘new’ CME referrals during Quarter 1, an increase of 33 compared with the previous quarter

-          Of the 188, 110 (58.5%) had had a previous episode of CME which emphasised that some children had recurrent issues with CME

-          78% of children were from the central area of Rotherham

-          There were an additional 32 cases that remained open from previous reporting periods bringing the active caseload to 210 at the end of Quarter 1

-          134 cases had been resolved in the period

-          The central locality of Rotherham had consistently higher rates of CME largely due to the mobile and transient nature of the resident population

-          40% of the children identified as CME had no known vulnerability or issues identified within the family at the point of becoming CME

-          Of the newly identified children, 14% were open to Children’s Social Care and 6% to Early Help

-          All children, regardless of identified level of need, became subject to joint investigations by the school and Local Authority at the point of becoming CME to ensure rigorous strategies were employed to try and locate the child


The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s Controlling Migration Fund had enabled extra resources to assist with key issues that affected the wellbeing of children and their progression in education.  The workers would spend a considerable amount of time in central locality schools.  The fund was also facilitating the recruitment of 2 Community Navigators, a shared resource between the Council and voluntary sector, which offered intensive outreach and detached work to ‘find’ families that were newly migrant and/or arranging to leave the UK.


As part of the Early Help Review, it was proposed that CME move to Education and Skills as the work closely aligned with school admissions.  Despite the proposed change, processes would remain the same and work would continue across the operational and strategic boards to ensure that practice was scrutinised and children supported appropriately.


The Chair commented that it was disappointing that the report had not been the detailed analysis of trends expected as requested at the January meeting and of the standard of the report in terms of the spelling and grammar.


Discussion ensued on the report with the following issues raised/clarified:-


-          “Alternative provision” could refer to a child who had come off a school roll and a separate package of support had been set up e.g. Pupil Referral Unit, Chislett


-          Due to DfE rules around school admissions when someone applied for a school, because of cultural bias, they did not have to provide their ethnicity.  Colleagues within School Admissions had been asked if they could ask the question on the School Admissions Form, explaining within the question that it was voluntary.  This would assist the Service to understand the trends and patterns


-          There were 3 Roma speaking Workers within the Early Help Service.  The Controlling Migration Fund was facilitating the recruitment of 2 Community Navigators, not specifically for CME, matrix managed by Early Help and REMA, who worked in the central locality where there were greater numbers of transient families.  The Workers carried out assertive outreach work to identify people as they entered Rotherham.  2 Family Support Workers were attached to the Central locality schools specifically to assist with the additional pressure faced by the community 


-          The Fund also supported some of the interpreting work.  The Service worked hard to make sure families were not disadvantaged because of the language barrier.  There were some Roma speaking Education Workers


-          The Controlling Migration Fund was a much bigger fund managed through the Assistant Chief Executive.  An evaluation was taking place of the Fund in its entirety and was subject to a different report but some narrative could be included in future reports to the Commission


-          188 children had been identified as CME of which there were 116 families.  It was not possible to break the number down any further as it was measured in children as per the DfE requirement


-          There were mechanisms in place of reporting if a child was missing from education.  Schools reported the movement of children every month, reporting those who had attended and those who had left


-          Previously no predominant need or presenting issue had been collated when CME data was collected.  Work had taken place to ensure that at the point of referral it was captured as to whether there were any issues known in school and was now included in the referral form


-          Checks would be made to ascertain if a family was known to Early Help, Children’s Social Care etc. and whether there had been domestic abuse etc.  What was known that in 40% of all the cases coming through, there had been no known issues with the family previously.  A lot of work had taken place with schools to impress upon parents that if they were going to move they should notify the relevant authorities.


-          Although data on free school meals was not included, all the risk factors that it was felt might be useful were.  At the point of referral schools were asked the share with the Service on the referral form if they had any concerns and it would be recorded as a presenting issue at CME


-          The issue of collecting information with regard to free school meals could be discussed at the Strategic Missing Team but consultation would be required with Education colleagues.  The fact that a child was in receipt of free school meals would not be classed as a risk factor.  The predominant issue would be recorded and free school meals would be a secondary measure


-          There was close working with Selective Licensing usually on an individual family basis and also in strategic forums.  Part of the Controlling Migration Fund work was about collaboration with wider colleagues, such as Selective Licensing, when it was known that there was a particular issue around a family, not necessarily CME, that had vulnerabilities and worries regarding their tenancy/licensing/landlords


-          Several sessions had been held with the Clifton Learning Partnership


-          The performance was broken down across the Early Help locality areas i.e.  North, South, Central and the 9 teams within that – Clifton, Wingfield Winterhill, Oakwood, Town Centre and Canklow, Dinnington, Maltby,  Wath, Swinton, Dalton and Rawmarsh.  The issue would be pursued with data colleagues to ascertain if it was possible to break the information down further, however, it was known that generally Eastwood, East Dene and Herringthorpe were the highest areas for CME


-          None of the CME had presented with high risk of FGM, however, there were clear Safeguarding Board protocols to be followed. 


-          Safeguarding issues were shared, however, they could not be sent out to all local authorities in the United Kingdom unless there was some intelligence as to which local authority the family may have moved to


-          There was a full-time CME officer.  Susan was the CME strategic lead and also chaired the Strategic Missing Group 


-          The Operational Group that reported to the Strategic Group looked at the thematic issues and was not there to discuss individual children’s plans.  The Group had been refocussed to make sure there were clear reports to the Missing Group on what was working well, what they were worried about and or any issue that needed the Strategic Group to unblock


-          When a child had gone missing and found/located in education there were conversations with the child and parents.  If there had been previous concerns/issues they would be picked up and there would be a conversation with the school and CME Officer resulting in a possible referral.  There was always a conversation with the parent with regard to the circumstances; it was often quite innocent and a matter of them not notifying the correct people, however, the fact that the circumstances of them returning to Rotherham and being found may suggest that there were new concerns.  If a child was found in a school outside Rotherham concerns/worries/vulnerabilities were shared on a case by case basis


-          There was no statutory responsility for CME children below school age, however, the Service did track nursery schools and playgroups as much as possible.  It was not included in the report because it was not a function of the DfE but the CME Officer had a list of children they might be worried about and their siblings.  Pre-school children would show up on the Health radar.  Reassurance was provided that the whole family was looked at and not just the CME child


-          Currently there was one CME Officer who currently sat within the Child Social Care Triage Team.  A large proportion of her interaction needed to be with School Admissions and Education and Skills so the proposed move would make no difference other than the Officer having a different strategic lead


-          The Controlling Migration Fund was not directly linked to CME and there was no funding drawn down but it was part of the Early Help Service.  It had been mentioned in the report because some of the things happening within that piece of work were influencing positively on some of the locality work


Resolved:-  (1)  That the report be noted.


(2)  That a further detailed report be submitted including:-


-          the progress that had been made

-          actions that had been completed, when and who by

-          trends

-          locality level data

-          the need to understand the analysis of why children were not on the school roll

-          more detail on the budget and resources,

-          the outcomes, terms of reference and the new way of working of the Strategic Missing Group


(3)  That consideration be given as to the appropriate arena for the evaluation of the Controlling Migration Fund.


(4)  That a report be submitted to the December meeting of the Select Commission if possible.

Supporting documents: