On Friday January 8th 2016 I attended a round table discussion with the NSPCC on the subject of keeping children safe in home education. A copy of the invitation can be found here The people who went to the meeting gave an undertaking that they would wait for notes from the NSPCC. The first draft went out on January 29th 2016. An amended version was circulated on February 16th 2016 which has now been seen by quite a few people. [*** Update September 2017 a compromise was never reached and notes were not published. ***] Read more here (April 2016)
I have collected my social media comments about the NSPCC meeting here (February 2016)
Sent November 23rd 2015 to firstname.lastname@example.org
In March 2014 the NSPCC published a thematic report about home education in serious case reviews which I gather was intended to summarise risk factors and facilitate learning for improved practice. I understand from your web page that this briefing is now under review.
The 2014 briefing simply pulled out recommendations with any mention of home education in Serious Case Reviews.
Unfortunately, by hyperfocusing only on the recommendations made about home education within a particular SCR, this gave a very misleading impression of the SCR as a whole. For example the Caerphilly SCR talked about school not being a good fit for some children, and the LA just going through the motions, yet the briefing didn't mention this because it wasn't “about home education.”
Several reviews (eg Child A and and Child case number 14 Birmingham) indicated problems arising from treating non-attendance at school as the core issue instead of looking at wider factors. In some situations agencies appear to have actively avoided dealing with parents perceived as difficult, to the detriment of the child for example where the GP removed ST (Enfield) from his list. It's not helpful to make this into a "home education" problem.
In other cases there was a lack of supervision around private fostering or adoption from abroad, or a culture of low expectations for children from a particular background, or a focus on adults "struggling" rather than on the experience of the child. All these involve wider issues than home education.
Case reviews also highlighted situations where people were concerned but didn't make proper referrals or where concerns raised with children's social care were not followed up or were not escalated using agreed procedures. Sometimes this was compounded by agencies mistakenly believing that “education” would – or could - deal with everything.
However, the recommendations relating specifically to home education focused on changing local procedures and on urging the council to make representations to the Government asking for “more powers.”
Regrettably, the SCRs in question were carried out following a process which has since been dropped in England and Wales. In the past a blame culture was in operation and by focusing on an individual or an isolated feature of the case attention could be diverted from local failings. Home education served on several occasions as a convenient scapegoat.
In the past SCRs would typically come up with SMART recommendations which enabled local authorities to demonstrate progress by ticking off the recommendations. In England, practitioners are now able to opt for alternative methodological approaches for Serious Case Reviews and in Wales SCRs have been dropped altogether and replaced with Child Practice Reviews. SCRs have been described as "an activity primarily for senior management" which promoted a blame culture, hindered inter-agency working and failed to improve practice.
Should the NSPCC wish to provide practitioners with something genuinely useful then this would require a much less simplistic approach.
Please be aware that I have also posted a copy of this email on my website.
"We need a deeper and more sophisticated understanding of why mistakes occur and how the system can learn to avoid them. This requires overhauling the serious case review process..."
DfE Policy Paper page 7, Children’s social care reform: a vision for change, January 14th 2016.
I have blogged about some of the problems with serious case reviews and Local Safeguarding Children Boards here
In May 2016 the Government announced plans to scrap local Serious Case Reviews and amend Local Safeguarding Children Boards in response to Alan Wood's Review. NSPCC briefing on Wood Review and Government response. (As explained in this blog post, the Wood Review also mentions home education but the Government response ignores this)
The Children and Social Work Act 2017 which has now passed into law does include proposals to end SCRs and LSCBs but there has been no information about when most of the provisions of the Act might ever come into force.