While there is much in the Secretary of States speech yesterday at Durand that the Association for Education Welfare Management (AEWM) would wish to debate, Mr Gove’s comments on absence from school is one that we would totally endorse. His accretion that too many children miss great quantities of their education is tragically true and it is without doubt that missed education will lead to disaffection and poor life chances. However, it is ironic that at the same time as increasing the rate for designating a pupil as a persistent absentee from 80% attendance to those with 85% attendance we are seeing the Education Welfare Service across the country decimated.
In the current radical cuts to Local Authority spending Councils are seeing their Education Welfare Services as a primary target for reducing spending. It will take some time for the results of these decisions to come to light and in the intervening period many young people’s lives will have been permanently affected.
The House of Commons Select Committee on Education recommendation earlier this year was that to be an effective EWS the Service should remain centrally coordinated. However we are seeing increasing numbers of Authorities outsourcing or in some cases totally closing their Education Welfare Service.
Mr Gove’s comments on schools who seek to hide attendance and behaviour difficulties demonstrates an understanding of the issues but by failing to include the work of the EWS in future plans the Government will be missing the advice from the experts in this field. Statistics show that when an Education Welfare Officer is included in a mediation role at attendance meetings over 70% of pupils improve their attendance. The Association offers its support to the work Charlie Taylor is undertaking and hopes that its contribution can further advance the improvement envisaged.
The changes to teaching practices may have an impact over time but without the pupils’ presence the most brilliant of teachers can have no affect. The Association continues to support managers nationally and will also work closely with our colleagues in safeguarding on the discipline changes announced in Mr Gove’s speech yesterday.
These are challenging times and it will be tragic if a Service that dates back to 1884 in supporting young people’s right to education is lost due to short term financial gains.