A report has been released this week highlighting how Local Authorities (LAs) are failing to provide school places to children in care who are moving into the area. This has come to light through the stories of 30 children in Oxfordshire who have been left out of school for anywhere up to 6 months.
You have to ask yourself, how is this possibly happening?
Each local authority will have a virtual school who are responsible for looked after children in their authority. In the cases of Local Authority, state funded schools, they have the power to essentially force or direct these schools to take LAC pupils as a priority. Where this falls down apparently is in the prevalence of Academies where the LA has no power to direct them to take pupils.
While we accept that of course there will be the exceptions where a school is unable to take a particular pupil due to risks posed or dynamics within the school at the time, these should surely be the exception rather than the rule.
If it is indeed the case that academies are refusing to take these pupils, leading to children being out of school for, it's worth repeating, up to six months, then there are some fairly major questions to be asked as to why. Some examples include: the pupil is coming in in year 11 and this could have an impact on our GCSE results; the pupil is looked after and therefore higher need. Can we afford the resources this might entail.
There are inherent political issues in the problem around school funding and whether resources are available to meet the needs of these pupils, but surely that should be an afterthought to ensuring the needs of the child are met and that the child is central to everyone's thinking. Everything else comes afterward.