“Abandoned – at five”: English children thrown into unsuitable “schools” | Children

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SSome vulnerable children excluded from mainstream education are being educated in unregulated and illegal schools based in caravans on farmland, as well as industrial estates and business parks, Ofsted inspectors told the Guardian in order to lift the veil on a troubled world.

Victor Shafiee and Sue Will, who focus on unregistered and illegal schools brought to the attention of inspection through a concerned parent or local authority, say the Alternative Arrangements (APs) for children who cannot be accommodated in mainstream education are complex and growing.

For troubled children in mainstream schools, there are high-quality state-funded pupil guidance units and a good independent alternative offer, registered and supervised by Ofsted, which may offer a good short-term solution. term.

But due to a lack of places, there is also a growing unregistered sector, which worries Ofsted. If a PA offers a part-time service, it is not necessary to register and therefore will not be inspected by Ofsted. It becomes illegal if it is not yet registered and offers full or almost full-time education.

The landscape becomes even darker when children who have been excluded are referred to oversubscribed student reference units. They can then be subcontracted to an unregistered establishment. This means that troubled and difficult children, some of whom are only five years old, are sent to “schools” in unsuitable housing, with unqualified staff, and may receive little education.

Five- and six-year-olds can be placed alongside older adolescents, with no specialized arrangements for either. Inspectors described how a 14-year-old boy with no interest in hair and beauty was placed in a specialist hair and beauty setting. Children settle in at 11am and there may be no staff control, no program oversight, no data.

“It’s awful, isn’t it?” said Shafiee, Ofsted’s deputy principal for unregistered and independent schools. “The big question for me is, what happened there? Have the children suddenly deteriorated? What has fundamentally changed, which means that more children are going to PAs and primary school children are going more and more to PAs? Because this area is so dark we just don’t know it.

Inspectors are also seeing a growth in online hotspots, which can be helpful in some circumstances, but not always. “A child has behavior problems. What are we doing? We ask them to sit in front of a computer and go to an online hotspot, ”Shafiee said.

And a lot of money is changing hands. If a child has a plan for education, health and care for severe special needs, large sums of money can follow that child, with an annual fee of £ 30,000 or even more being paid by local authorities to private providers.

“Why have we found ourselves in a situation where some of the most vulnerable children are being looked after or educated by people who are probably not as qualified as normal teachers? Shafiee said. “What’s going to happen to them?” If at a very young age you find yourself in an illegal or unregistered PA, what are your chances?

“I can’t tell you with my hand on my heart that this kid is going to go back to school very quickly, he or she is going to behave much better and life is going to be all rosy. There is a lack of data on how many of these children end up in the mainstream system or how many end up in the justice system. Isn’t that a bad place to be? We just don’t know how many of our children go to these places. Forgive me if I sound really emotional about this.

Will is part of a small team of Ofsted inspectors who, since 2016, have been visiting unregistered and illegal places across the country. “I went in caravans on farmland, we went to filthy halls, another favorite is in industrial areas,” she said.

“We’ve started to identify more elementary school children in these settings over the past 18 months, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there before. We really work in the dark here. There is no regulation. There is no requirement for paperwork. It really is the unknown.

She has met children as young as five years old in these settings. “You imagine a five-year-old being written off. At five o’clock, said Will. Shafiee added, “They deserve the system to help them as much as any other child.”

He said: “There is a place for an alternative offer in the system, to take a child who is having problems out of a particular environment, to give him a short break, a different perspective helps him calm down, arrange. We also cannot let these children disrupt the education of hundreds of children at the same time.

“But erasing them or parking them somewhere is not the answer. It is not fair to them and it is not fair to the taxpayer who pays and it is not fair to their parents or the society in general.


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