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Ofsteds Recent Inspection of Unregistered Schools

View profile for Mollie Jones
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The number of Unregistered Schools continues to increase and a recent article published by the BBC confirms that Local Authority’s are now contributing thousands of pounds a year to such provisions. The information published within the article highlights the seriousness of illegal schools and just how unsafe these unregulated provisions are.
 

Unregistered schools commonly accommodate pupils who have been taken out of mainstream schools or those who have been excluded. The issue however, is that unfortunately there is no alternative for pupils who are in this situation and therefore, illegal schools are becoming the only available option.
 

What is not considered is how badly run these provisions are and how dangerous they can be for the pupils who depend on them to access education. Ofsted recently published its most recent findings on illegal schools and the figures are concerning. Inspectors suggest that 6,000 children are taught in illegal schools and since 2016, Ofsted inspectors have investigated more than 530 unregistered settings, many of which are deemed “alternative provisions’’.
 

Upon inspection, it was found that the conditions of these illegal provisions were extremely shocking as the premises were run down, dangerous and in some circumstances, did not provide any education for pupils at all. The lack of regulation essentially means that there is no formal authority monitoring teaching, health and safety or the daily practices of these provisions. Some inspectors noted children playing computer games for the majority of the day and not receiving any form of beneficial education whatsoever.
 

The general consensus is that these provisions are not well run and are essentially made up of the least capable individuals looking after the most vulnerable. What is most concerning is that Local Authority’s are now funding these “alternative provisions’’. In one case, Oftsed inspectors issued a formal warning to an alternative provision that was receiving £27,000 a year per child from the Local Authority. Furthermore, some parents are also paying up to £2,500 per year for their children to attend such provisions.
 

At HCB Solicitors we see Local Authority’s far too often suggesting “ASD Bases’’ and “Resource Centres’’ for children when they are unable to find an appropriate provision that is able to meet a child’s Special Educational Needs. We recently assisted a family whereby the child had a complex profile of difficulties that included ASD. The Local Authority’s suggested provision was a “Support Centre’’. After this provision was fully explored, it was deemed to be very similar to a porter cabin that was located on the side of a busy road and there was no information available as to who regulated the provision. This particular child needed to be educated in a highly specialist ASD provision and the Local Authority’s suggestion of a “Resource Base’’ that is unregulated was highly inappropriate.

 

THE LAW

  1. Section 19(1)-(2) Education Act 1996 states,

                 (1) Any school established (whether before or after the commencement of this Act) and maintained by a [local authority] which—

(a)     is specially organised to provide education for such children [children falling within subsection (1)], and

(b)     is not a county school or a special school,

shall be known as a “pupil referral unit”.

  1. Section 61(1)-(2) Children and Families Act 2014 provides;

(1) A local authority in England may arrange for any special educational provision that it has decided is necessary for a child or young person for whom it is responsible to be made otherwise than in a school or post-16 institution or a place at which relevant early years education is provided.

(2) An authority may do so only if satisfied that it would be inappropriate for the provision to be made in a school or post-16 institution or at such a place.
 

If unregistered schools are not recorded with the Secretary of State as either a county school or a special school in the eyes of the law, they are Pupil Referral Units and cannot be named as schools. There is evidentially a flaw in the system due to Local Authority’s inability to accommodate the vast amount of children they are responsible for. Nevertheless, children with SEN and children who have been excluded still need to attend provisions that are safe and regulated as attending illegal schools deny children a proper education and put them at considerable risk.
 

 At HCB Solicitors we are SEN specialist lawyers and have many years of experiencing in dealing with Education disputes with Local Authority’s. We work with parents every day to provide them with the best legal advice given their circumstances. If you are experiencing difficulties with unregistered schools or are in a dispute with your Local Authority, please do get in touch for further discussion with one of our SEN solicitors as to how we can assist on 0333 202 7175 or email education@hcbgroup.com.

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