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Agenda item

Early Help - Children Missing from Education


Further to Minute No. 23 of the meeting held on 23rd September, 2018, Susan Claydon, Head of Service Early Help, and Dean Fenton, Head of Service School Planning, Admissions & Appeals Service, presented the following further information as requested:-


-          Each Local Authority had the responsibility to employ a CME Officer.  Rotherham had an Operational Manager who over saw the work and a Head of Service Strategic Lead.

-          All Early Help Locality Teams adopted attendance and CME related issues as ‘everybody’s business’ so that home visits and enquiries pertaining to a child missing from education could be directed by the CME Officer and associated manager

-          As part of Phase 2 and 3 of the Early Help Strategy, Cabinet had agreed that the CME function move from Early Help into Education and Skills. This was important in further aligning CME processes to wider education processes such as school admissions and elective home education.  The transition expected in January 2019

-          177 children (from 97 families) classified as new CME referrals, a reduction compared to the previous quarter (188 children/97 families)

-          Of the 177, 92 children had been known to have had previous episodes of CME that were closed

-          Evidence suggested that the recurrence was largely due to families being transient and then returning to Rotherham intermittently rather that concerns related to vulnerability and/or safeguarding issues

-          At the end of the reporting period there were 146 active cases that remained open to CME – a 30% reduction from Quarter 1

-          256 resolved cases (significant increase on Quarter 1 – 134 cases)

-          13.7% of children within the CME cohort were eligible for Free School Meals

-          89 new referrals from primary schools and 88 from secondary schools

-          Outcomes data now captured – of the 256 children that were closed to CME in the Quarter, 46 were found and transferred to admissions and tracking.  75 children were closed as they were found and another local authority subsequently accepted responsibility for them.  21 children were found in a school within another local authority and 29 were found have taken up a new place at a school in Rotherham.  22.5% of children were closed as a result of all possible enquiries being exhausted and 12% were verified to have left the UK.  2 children were classified as being educated at home

-          The majority of the children found in another authority were proportionately distributed around South Yorkshire

-          Of the newly identified cases, 82.5% were from the central area of Rotherham at the time of referral

-          The majority of children CME were classified by ethnicity as Roma by their parents (40%) and a further 36% unclassified

-          The Early Help Head of Service had negotiated a new form, introduced in October, in conjunction with the School Admission Service, to encourage parents to complete ethnicity information.  This element remain a voluntary aspect when applying for a school place in Rotherham

-          Work was taking place within schools/education to better understand the needs of Roma facilities and ensure that services maximised co-working and shared approaches

-          The Early Help Service was working with the RMBC Communications Team to publish good news stories about the positive work with Roma facilities in the locality to assist with reassurance in the community

-          More detailed locality information had been added to the quarterly scorecard that detailed localities across the Early help reach area

-          Free School meals analysis had not been captured and included in the Quarter 2 scorecard


Discussion ensued with the following issues raised/clarified-


·           The School Admission process sat within Education and Skills where there was a tracking system for when families applied for a school place for their child.  If a parent presented themselves directly to a school and made an application, CME would transfer it to the application and transfer process and was monitored and tracked through the Admission to School process.  At the end of the process if the child still did not have a place, it would be referred to other protocols such as Fair Access


·           Elective Home Education was also part of the Service and had links to the multi-agency Strategic Missing Group 


·           The Authority had a responsibility to employ a CME Officer.  The move for that position to be within Education was much better for the postholder’s personal development and the linkages across all


·           There would be a seamless transition from application and process into CME still with oversight into Early Help and through the Strategic Missing Group day-to-day liaison


·           It was difficult to prevent families travelling out of the UK, however, the Service worked intensively in the localities.  Work was taking place to educate families with regard to the detrimental impact of removing their children from school.  There was a team of workers as part of the Early Help Service in the Clifton locality, predominantly where the CME children were, as well as dedicated workers at the Secondary School and the feeder primary schools.  There were strong links to the community organisations, Clifton Learning Partnership and REMA, who worked through assertive outreach in the community, and strong links with the service area.  There was attendance an open evenings where interpreters/Roma speaking staff would be present to communicate the concern about children’s education being disrupted.  However, some of the CME children were not due to them returning to their home country but move around the UK for job opportunities 


·           The Early Help Service ensured it had exhausted all options before fining families.  It was a different route for CME as Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN) for children who took holidays in term time.  The Service made sure it was supporting families and understood what the holistic family need was as fines may not change behaviour and may add to the poverty and deprivation of what some of families were facing


·           The Authority had limited powers by statute with regard to Elective Home Education.  Local Authorities had a duty to establish whether a child was receiving an adequate education, however, it was a very difficult threshold to measure.  Currently a Bill was going through Parliament in relation to Elective Home Education and the powers of local authorities. The Bill looked to strengthen local authority statutory duties and suggested things such as an assessment or baseline of education.  Rotherham carried out safe and well checks


·           There was a governance group, Overview and Accountability Group for Elective Home Education, consisting of representatives of Social Care, Early Help and other agencies such as NSPCC, Barnardos, NHS.  Any cases of children not seen would be worked through with other agencies and if still not seen there was an escalation process through Early Help into Social Care. The Group had been in operation for 18 months and was accountable to the Strategic Missing Group


·           If there were any concerns when an expression to Elective Home Educate was made, there were rigorous checks to ascertain if there were any pre-existing concerns and that family in receipt of support.  If so there would be discussion at the Overview and Accountability Group and the family to ensure all were in agreement and advice and support offered.  Some expressions had been opposed and work had taken place with Children and Families to secure a better outcome for that child


·           From the assertive work carried out in the community described previously, the Service was notified as soon as possible of any new families that had moved into the area.  Often new arrivals would present themselves at one of the voluntary organisations and the information was shared.  It was not impossible that a family could move into the area and not be known of for a couple of works but in general agencies would find out. If a family came from another local authority there were checks carried out with the Authority in the same way as they would if moving from Rotherham


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


(2)  That consideration be given to the format of a 6 monthly future report(s) to include the Strategic Missing Group and the wider context of Children’s Missing from Education, persistent absence, Fixed Term Exclusions, Elective Home Education.


(2)  That discussions take place with regard to the possibility of including Children Missing from Education to the weekly tracker.

Supporting documents: