On 14 July 2015, the former Secretary of State committed to take “immediate steps to amend the current regulations about the information schools collect when a pupil is taken off the register” to address the weakness in the regulations in relation to children missing education (CME). This issue was highlighted by HM Chief Inspector in his advice letter of 14 July 2015 following inspections of schools in Birmingham and Tower Hamlets.
It is correct to say that the Department has confirmed to the Committee that it would allow a term’s notice between the laying of an SI and it coming into force, except in exceptional circumstances, such as where public commitments have already been made. The Department takes this commitment seriously and we continue to use our best endeavours to give a full term’s notice. However in this particular case, the Department acted quickly to meet a public commitment to ensure the safeguarding of vulnerable children, and therefore we consider this departure from normal practice to be an exceptional circumstance.
The consultation, launched on 19 January and closed on 7 March 2016, made clear the Government’s intention to bring amended regulations into force in September 2016. There were no concerns expressed by schools or local authorities (LA) about this timetable in the consultation responses. Similarly, no concerns were expressed in informal face-to-face consultation and telephone interviews, undertaken by officials to inform implementation.
Following the end of the consultation, the Department undertook a detailed analysis of school and LA workloads using data gathered from consultation responses, and this informed the Impact Assessment. Clearance of the Impact Assessment was subsequently required from the Regulatory Policy Committee, which was sought on 9 May and the committee responded on 31 May. The EU referendum “purdah” period of 27 May to 23 June then militated against being able to release the government response to the consultation before this date. The government response was, however, published before the end of the school term and communicated to the sector.
The Department continues to be mindful of the very short lead-in time and has planned accordingly. Officials have been in regular communication with all lead officers responsible for CME in local authorities in England. They in turn will be planning communication with schools in their local area. The Department also plans specific communication with schools and local authorities for the beginning of the autumn term, and guidance is due to be published shortly.
The Regulations place a duty on schools to share information about pupil movements at only non-standard transition points, i.e. when a pupil leaves the school before completing the final year of education provided by that school or joins the school after the start of the youngest year. The Regulations will therefore apply to a relatively small proportion of pupils during the school year, as set out in the Impact Assessment. The local authority can require schools to provide information on pupils leaving or joining the school at standard transition points, and if they choose to do so, this would only apply between the end of the third term in summer 2017 and the beginning of the first term in autumn 2017.
Officials will monitor implementation through the local authority CME leads mentioned above, which will inform the Department’s assessment of how long it will take before all schools and local authorities are fully compliant with the new regulations. The Department has committed to reviewing the regulations before September 2019, as set out in the regulations.
19 August 2016
As with all previous amendments to these Regulations, and, as with all departmental proposals for new, or revised, data collections, the proposals for these changes were reviewed by the Star Chamber Scrutiny Board (SCSB). The SCSB is an independent external panel of representatives from schools and local authorities with responsibility for representing the sector and ensuring that all proposals are necessary, provide value for money and are designed to add as small a burden to the frontline as possible. The collection of data required by SI 2016/808 was considered, and approved, by the SCSB on behalf of the sector. Should there have been concerns regarding these changes, SCSB would have raised these for discussion requesting clarification or amendment before providing their formal decision to accept or reject the changes.
Schools are already required to collect a range of information from parents for their own purposes locally and also to support centrally specified data collections. The new data required from parents as part of this SI will therefore be obtained alongside the other child / pupil information already routinely collected by schools. Likewise, to support a child’s learning, teachers should already being making judgements as to the impact proficiency in English has on a pupil’s ability to engage in classroom activities to ensure adequate levels of support are provided to support the child’s education.
19 August 2016