Schools admissions changes will see most vulnerable secure place more quickly

The schools admission code will be changed so the most vulnerable children, such as those fleeing domestic abuse, can access a place more quickly, the Education Secretary has announced.

According to the Government’s Children in Need Review, published on Monday, every classroom has three children who have come into contact with social worker.

It also reveals that 1.6 million children in England needed a social worker at some point between 2012 to 2013 and 2017 to 2018 – equivalent to one in 10 of all children.

Speaking at the Reform think tank on Monday, Damian Hinds (pictured) stressed the importance for children in need to be in school to reduce the likelihood of them “falling prey to criminal or sexual exploitation”.

Children in need are those who have required the support of a social worker.

The Department for Education (DfE) review found they are three times more likely to be persistently absent from school, and four times more likely to be permanently excluded.

These children have poorer educational outcomes at every stage of learning than those who have not had contact with a social worker, the review sets out.

Taking into account other factors associated with attainment, they are also up to 50% less likely to achieve a strong pass in English and maths GCSEs.

A consultation will be launched in due course to determine what changes need to be made to the admissions code so children in need can secure a school place more quickly.

Mr Hinds announced a package of measures at the event, including new research on how to tackle persistent absence from school and exploring the expansion of advocates within education.

He said: “We understand children in care have very poor outcomes. Actually the truth is the outcomes for children in need of a social worker are almost as bad but there are five times as many of them.

“We also know the effects of this sustain. Overall if you’ve needed contact with a social worker at any time since year 5, on average you are going to score 20 grades lower across eight GCSEs.

“We need to improve the visibility of this group, both in schools and in the system as a whole. We need to make sure in every case that information is passed on to a social worker when a child moves school.

“We also need to improve our knowledge of what works to support and help these children. We must not lower our expectations for them – for these children it is more important that they can do their very best to make the most of their talents when they’re at school.”

However, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said the “paralysis currently affecting much of Whitehall and Westminster” is letting children in need down.

Russell Hobby, chief executive of charity Teach First, said: “It’s tragic that for too long many disadvantaged young people have not just been left behind – they’ve been kept behind – unable to break an enduring cycle of disadvantage.

“To tackle this head on we must see more investment for schools and teachers in the upcoming spending review, alongside a continued commitment to the Pupil Premium.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Victoria Jones / PA Wire.

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