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Unofficial exclusions leave 1,000’a without education

Children are being illegally denied access to schooling as authorities fail to keep track of cases that schools keep off the books.

Experts fear thousands of under-16s are falling out of the system after being "unofficially excluded" from schools. Councils have a statutory duty to provide full-time education to children in their borough – an obligation strengthened by the government in 2011. Since then there has been mounting evidence that some schools are using unofficial exclusions to push children out.

Local authority education staff say cuts to their resources are making it difficult to track these cases.
Freedom of information requests have established that the Department for Education (DfE) is not collecting figures nor monitoring local authorities' performance, despite warnings from both Ofsted and the local government ombudsman in the last two years that it was an area of concern.

Several current and former education welfare officers for local authorities have commented that some schools resort to illegal methods to push difficult children out, under constant pressure to raise standards but avoid official exclusions on their records. These children may be left in limbo as a result, with local authorities often not made aware they are not in school.

A DfE spokeswoman said: "Schools must ensure pupils on their register are attending. If a pupil is not on a school register the local authority has a duty to ensure that suitable, full-time education is arranged."

Just for Kids Law, a charity working with hundreds of young offenders in London, said their analysis showed 85% of their cases involved the young person missing education. Many of them fell out of the system after unofficial exclusions, said its president, Shauneen Lambe: "The long-term impact on the child is huge …it's a disaster for our society."

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