Southwark Council takes action to keep children in school

15 January 2020

Southwark Council is hosting an important event this week to look at the best ways to ensure children remain in education.

The Keeping Children in Education conference will include professionals from schools, educational support groups and the local authority, with a focus on identifying the best, positive actions to keep children in school.

The reasons why children are excluded from school are hugely complex, but the evidence is overwhelmingly clear that those who are more likely to be excluded are often the most vulnerable children and those more likely to be suffering from poor mental health. Looked after children are 2.3 times more likely to be permanently excluded and those with special educational needs, identified prior to starting school, are six times more likely to be excluded from school.

Alongside this, exclusion from school adds to the cumulative risk factors of a child becoming vulnerable to serious harm or exploitation, with a higher proportion of children who are excluded from school being known to youth offending services.

Cabinet Member for Children, Schools and Adult Care, Councillor Jasmine Ali, says: “While the number of excluded children in Southwark is low, even one excluded child is one too many.”

Research shows that when children remain in education for longer, as well as more obvious outcomes such as raising their educational attainment and their chances of gainful employment, the child is better protected from harm. The robust safeguarding policies that local authorities and schools apply when a child is in school stretch beyond education, and include the pastoral care and concern for the child’s wellbeing. When a child remains in education, the dialogue is kept open between parents or guardians and makes for better chances in life for the child, with dangers from harm often identified earlier.

In response to, and in recognition of, these complex issues around exclusion, the council is taking action to keep children in education for longer, to help them stay under the wing of care from the school and authority and ultimately to keep them safe. The direction will begin with a school inclusion conference on Thursday 16 January.

The council is also working closely with parents as a part of its Keeping Families Strong initiative and will link the outcomes of this conference with its Parents Alliance to strengthen the relationship between families and head teachers in order to fully understand, and tackle, all the reasons why children are missing from school. The conference will offer insight into what kinds of support and intervention have been effective in helping vulnerable children remain in school, while understanding the need to provide all children with a high quality education. It will provide an opportunity to work strategically and collectively to identify how even more of our children can get the great education they deserve, and stay safe.

The keynote address will be delivered by Professor Sonia Blandford. Sonia is Founder and CEO of Achievement for All and one of the UK’s leading practitioners of education. She is passionate about raising the aspirations and improving the attainment of all children and young people regardless of their background or need.

Councillor Jasmine Ali continues: “We need to change the language when it comes to keeping young people in education – we need to hear less about ‘disruptive’ or ‘excluded’ ‘youths’  and more about how we can help vulnerable children, with complex needs and continue to provide a good quality education for all children. It is our duty, as parents and authorities, to go as far as we can to protect children. The first step towards this is to prevent them from becoming excluded. We want to ensure they stay in school, so that they are offered the best education, the best chances in life and that we take the strain for them, to reduce the impact on their mental health and keep them safe. I am interested to learn from professionals in education about where we can collectively invest our resources for the most positive outcomes for young people.”

Page last updated: 15 January 2020