Memorandum submitted by the Children's
1. This submission was prepared by the Children's
Legal Centrean independent national charity aimed at promoting
children's rights in the UK and worldwide. The Children's Legal
Centre has particular expertise in the area of education law,
being one of the leading providers of education law advice and
casework in England. The Centre submitted an alternative report
to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to inform its periodic
review of the UK Government.
The report focused exclusively on education, and examined the
extent to which the right to education has been implemented in
This submission presents a summary of the report, which analysed
the key issues of concern for the UN Committee in relation to
the Government's implementation of the right to education.
2. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child,
in its concluding observations on the UK Government, outlined
a number of key areas in which the Government has failed to implement
fully the right to education in England. These concerns included:
the persistence of significant inequalities
in access to education and educational outcomes for children from
vulnerable groups (children living in economic hardship, children
with disabilities, children of Travellers, Roma children, asylum-seeking
children, drop-outs and non-attendees and teenage mothers). The
UN Committee also noted that children in custody do not have a
statutory right to education;
inadequacy of participation by children
in young people in all aspects of Restriction of the right to
complain regarding educational provisions to parents;
the serious and widespread problem
of bullying; and
the high number of permanent and
temporary school exclusions, which disproportionately affect children
from vulnerable groups.
3. In its alternative report on the right
to education in England, the Children's Legal Centre examined
these key concerns and made a number of recommendations on how
to address these concerns, in order to ensure that the Government
fully adheres to the right to education contained in the UN Convention
on the Rights of the Child.
4. Children in custody do not have a
statutory right to education. Many children in custody are
not educated under the National Curriculum and do not receive
education that is full-time. Also, support for children in custody
with Special Educational Needs (SEN) is severely lacking.
The Education Act 1996 should be
amended so that the statutory guarantee to education applies to
children serving sentences in detention. Consideration
should be given to providing education for young offenders in
community schools, as a means of helping prepare young offenders
to reintegrate into society.
Where children in detention continue
receiving education in detention, the Government should ensure
that Local Authorities (LAs) are responsible for the education
of children in detention and juvenile detention facilities should
work more closely with them.
Statistics on the number of hours
spent on education and training for children of compulsory school
age who are in secure institutions should be collateddisaggregated
by type of education or training receivedand regularly
The LAs duty to provide support specified
in a Statement of Special Educational Needs should continue when
a child is in a juvenile detention facility.
5. Children in immigration detention
do not have a statutory right to education. Detained refugee
and asylum-seeking children are educated within detention centres,
which compromises their welfare, development and future education
and opportunities. Educational provision in immigration detention
centres is unsatisfactoryof poor quality, with a narrow
curriculum, a lack of individual learning plans or accreditation
systems and a lack of suitable target-setting.
LAs should be under an obligation
to provide education to asylum-seeking children, and the statutory
guarantee to education should apply to children seeking asylum.
Asylum-seeking children should be educated at schools
in the community, rather than in immigration detention.
Where children continue to be educated
in immigration detention centres, the Government should introduce
monitoring and assessment mechanisms in order to regularly monitor
and improve the quality of education provided to detained children.
6. Many refugee and asylum-seeking children
experience unacceptable delays in gaining access to education;
many are placed in schools unable to meet their needs; and for
many of these children, access to the full curriculum is restricted
due to financial obstacles. In addition, a lack of specificity
in funding arrangements mean that refugee and asylum-seeking children
will not always receive important financial support they require
to access education. Access to further education is also limited
as the Education Maintenance Allowance that supports post-16 education
does not apply to asylum-seekers.
The Government should introduce targeted,
ring-fenced funding to increase access of refugee and asylum-seeking
children to education. The Government should provide
guidelines on the placement of refugee and asylum-seekers under
the dispersal policy, ensuring that refugee and asylum-seekers
are placed in areas with suitable educational provision available
to meet their or their children's needs.
The Government should collect disaggregated
data and set targets in order to monitor and improve the educational
outcomes of refugee and asylum-seeking children.
The Government should introduce guidelines
for LAs, setting out strict timelines for making educational placements
of refugee and asylum-seeking children.
7. The Government has failed to ensure that
children with special educational needs (SEN) and disabilities
have equal access to suitable, appropriate education. There is
a lack of suitable educational provision for children with SEN
and disabilities. A flexible continuum of educational provision
should be made available in each LA area to meet the needs of
children with SEN and disabilities. However, for these children,
particularly for those children with autism and Aspergers Syndrome,
there is a lack of suitable educational provision in many LA areas
to meet the needs of these children. Many children with SEN are
not properly assessed in terms of the type of provision and support
they require, which hinders their access to the most suitable
education. In addition, attainment levels are not properly monitored
for this group of children. In addition, many mainstream schools
do not effectively adapt their systems, curriculum, and teaching
methods to meet the needs of children with SEN.
The Government should conduct an
audit to identify areas in which there is a lack of suitable provision
for children with SEN and disabilities. Resources
should be made available to ensure that there is a range of sufficient
educational provision available to meet the needs of children
with SEN and disabilities, both in mainstream and alternative
The Government should encourage mainstream
schools, including well-performing schools, to accept more children
with SEN and disabilities.
Admissions of children with SEN should
be carefully monitored to ensure that all mainstream schools are
accepting an adequate number of children with SEN and disabilities.
The Government should develop a national
framework setting out minimum standards on the provision of suitable
education for children with SEN. In particular, the Government
should act on the recommendations of the House of Commons Education
and Skills Committee and ensure that LAs develop a child-centred
approach with regard to each stage of the statementing process,
in particular in the assessment of needs, allocation of resources
The Government should set challenging
targets for LAs on educational outcomes for children with SEN.
In accordance with the recommendation
of the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee,
the Government should clarify its position on SEN, particularly
on inclusion of children with SEN in mainstream schools, and produce
a clear, over-arching policy for SEN.
The Government needs to significantly
increase investment in training its workforce so that all staff,
including teaching staff, are fully equipped and resourced to
improve outcomes for children with SEN and disabilities.
8. For the 60,000 children in care, many
have missed a significant amount of schooling. Also, educational
outcomes for these children continue to be poor compared to their
The Government should set clear targets
for educational access and attainment of children in care, to
ensure that children in care can achieve the same educational
outcomes as their peers. LAs should be given sufficient resources
to allow them to achieve these targets. They should also set regular
inspection, monitoring and evaluation systems against these targets.
The Government should ensure that teachers receive
effective, in-depth training on the needs and challenges faced
by children in care. They should also ensure that foster parents
receive training and support necessary to allow them to contribute
positive guidance and support to children in their care.
The Government should also set targets
for reducing the number of placements that children in care go
through, in order to avoid disruption to their lives and their
9. Educational attainment is much lower
for children from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, as educational
achievements are strongly linked to their parents' social and
The Government should thoroughly
review and address factors which impair the ability for economically
disadvantaged children to be engaged with the education system
and their ability to achieve their full potential.
10. Teenage mothers continue to experience
obstacles in gaining access to education, which the Government
has largely failed to address.
The Government should increase funding
for child care for teenage mothers, to allow more young people
to continue in education or training.
11. Children from minority ethnic backgrounds
continue to experience unequal access to education and educational
attainment. Many Roma and Traveller children are not registered
in school and, as a group, have very low school attendance rates.
Also, Roma and Traveller children have low educational attainment
compared to their peers. Children of African and Afro-Caribbean
origin experience systemic racism in the education system, which
has resulted in poor educational outcomes for these children compared
to that of their peers.
The Government should initiate compulsory
training of school staff (particularly teachers) to sensitise
staff to the experiences of minority ethnic students in the education
system, and reduce the negative stereotyping and low expectations
staff may have about children, based on their ethnic background.
The Government should ensure that LAs increase the
number of Traveller sites in their area to allow children to become
more settled and better able to access education.
The Government should provide targeted,
ring-fenced funding to schools to increase access to the education
system for children from Roma and Traveller backgrounds.
12. For the 135,000 children each year who
are unable to attend school (due, for instance, to medical needs,
exclusion, bullying or school phobia), the Government has failed
to ensure that they receive appropriate, suitable alternative
educational provision. Alternative educational provision is often
insufficient and of poor quality.
The Government should ensure that
LAs develop information collection systems which will allow them
to identify children who are not in school. This should allow
them to monitor each child in their area, to ensure that every
child, including those who cannot attend school, receive suitable,
quality education. Schools should be placed under
an obligation to advise LAs of all children on school rolls who
are not currently receiving full-time education on school premises.
The 2008 Government White Paper on
alternative provision makes a number of recommendations for improving
the quality of alternative educational provision. These recommendations
should be implemented as a matter of priority to ensure that all
children, whether in school or not, receive suitable quality education.
13. Children are denied the right to participate
in many procedural and substantive aspects of the education system.
In many areas, the law recognises the parent/s as the holder of
the right to education, to the exclusion of children, which has,
in practice, resulted in the denial of children's participation
in decision-making concerning their education.
14. Children do not have a right to express their
views in relation to school admission, including choice of school.
The law does not impose an obligation on LAs to consider the wishes
of the child by, for instance, allowing the child to make submissions
as to what type of educational provision would best suit him or
her and at which school the child would like to be educated.
15. Children do not have a separate right
of appeal against school admission or exclusion decisions or against
decisions concerning SEN provision. This means that, where parents
are disinterested or anxious about pursuing an appeal on their
child's behalf, the child will be unable to enforce important
procedural rights in relation to their education. This is particularly
concerning for children in care, who must rely on their foster
carer, who is employed by the LA, to initiate the appeal. Children
who are in care, but have not been placed with foster carers,
must rely on their LA social worker to appeal school admission
and exclusion decisions.
16. Many children do not have the ability
to participate effectively in decision-making within their schools,
and systematic forms of participation, such as participation in
school councils, is not a statutory right for children in England.
Empirical studies indicate that participation in schools generally
occurs on a one-off or isolated basis, rather than being embedded
in a systematic process.
17. Parents have the unconditional right,
in English law, to withdraw their child from sex and relationships
education and collective worship. There is no obligation on the
part of LAs or schools to consider the views of the child in relation
to any withdrawal.
The Government should legislate to
give children a statutory right to make representations, and to
have these representations taken into account, concerning school
admissions, including choice of school. The Government
should give children a separate statutory right to appeal against
school admission and exclusion decisions. It should also give
children a separate right of appeal to the Special Educational
Needs and Disability Tribunal concerning SEN provision by LAs.
Children who make an appeal against school admissions, exclusions
and SEN provision should have access to free, quality legal representation.
Children should be given a statutory
right to participate in decision-making in schools. This could
include the right to participate in school councils.
The unconditional right of parents
to remove their child from sex and relationships education and
collective worship should be withdrawn.
18. Despite Government attempts to tackle
wide-spread bullying in English schools, it is still very common
in many schools across England, and continues to cause many children
to miss school for periods of time, or to withdraw from attending
19. Some children are particularly vulnerable
to bullying, including those with SEN or visible medical conditions.
Racist and homophobic bullying is also particularly widespread.
20. Studies have highlighted the inaction
on the part of many schools to bullying complaints. Children in
England do not have recourse to any effective complaints mechanisms
following inaction on the part of schools where they have been
bullied. In relation to bullying, schools are not subject to the
oversight of the Local Government Ombudsman. Therefore, even where
schools fail to follow anti-bullying policies, children can only
complain to school governors, the LA or the Secretary of State.
The Government should, as a matter
of priority, investigate and share best practice in tackling bullying
in schools. Anti-bullying strategies should include responding
to particular types of bullying (racist, homophobic and bullying
of children with disabilities or SEN in particular). The
Government should mandate that schools develop more direct work
with children and young people to enhance their participation
in formulating and implementing anti-bullying strategies.
In order to measure schools' progress
in listening to pupils and to facilitate the sharing of best practice,
the methods used by schools to consult with children and young
people about bullying and in the development of anti-bullying
strategies should be included as a topic for Ofsted inspections.
The Government should consider introducing
an independent investigator to address bullying complaints when
they remain unresolved.
21. A large number of children continue
to be excluded from school every year. There were 8,680 permanent
and 363,270 fixed-period exclusions from schools in England in
2006-07. Many more children were "informally" excluded,
as schools will use methods other than official exclusion to keep
children off school premises, including persuading parents to
remove children from school and keep them at home.
22. Some groups of childrenchildren with
SEN, Roma and Traveller children, children of African and Afro-Caribbean
origin, economically disadvantaged children and children in carecontinue
to be excluded at much higher rates than the whole school population.
The Government should set targets
for reducing the number of both fixed-term and permanent exclusions
and identify and eradicate informal exclusions. These targets
should aim at reducing the disproportionate rate at which groups
of childrenincluding Black and Minority Ethnic children,
children in care, children from disadvantaged backgrounds and
children with SENare excluded. Measures aimed
at reducing exclusions should include new initiatives and approaches
to respond to challenging behaviour in schools without resorting
159 The report is available at: http://www.childrenslegalcentre.com/research/Researchprojects/currentukprojects.htm Back
This submission deals exclusively with how the right to education
has been implemented in England, owing to the particular expertise
of the Children's Legal Centre in education law and practice in
House of Commons Education and Skills Committee, Special Educational
Needs, Third Report of Session 2005-06, Volume 1, p 6. Back