Call To Help Bradford's "Invisible Children"

Lib Dem Cllr David Ward says more needs to be done to stop children being forced out of school.

A councillor has called for more to be done to help the “invisible children” who slip through the gaps of Bradford’s education system.

Councillor David Ward (Lib Dem, Bolton and Undercliffe) has spent much of the last year speaking to parents of children who have been permanently excluded – or encouraged to be “home schooled”.

He says many children are being forced out of school and taught at home, not due to lifestyle choices, but because it is easier for schools.

At a meeting of the Council on Tuesday he called for the Council to do more to let parents know their rights as to securing education for their children, and support them in any disputes with schools.

Putting forward a motion calling for this, he said: “When we look at some of the reports that have been produced in the last few years the picture is worrying. The Children’s Commissioner has referred to ‘Invisible Children’ and called a report on illegal exclusions ‘Always someone else’s problem’.

“The House of Commons Select Committee’s report on Alternative Provision was entitled ‘Forgotten children.’

“Some members will be familiar with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys sent to Never Never Land when they had fallen out their prams – if not claimed in seven days, Peter Pan became their Captain

“The question that I am asking is how many children in Bradford have fallen out of the metaphorical pram of educational provision? Who is their captain?”

Referring to his study of excluded children in Bradford, he said: “I was contacted by families whose lives had been totally disrupted by the upsetting, often to the point of misery and despair, experiences they and their children had suffered in some of our schools.

“What is apparent is that certain schools are better than others at dealing with children who do not just turn up every day and get on with it and who are likely to positively contribute to the success of the school in terms of its attainment levels.

“How many parents really do know their rights and the rights of their children? Where do they go to find out? Who will support them and speak up for them?”

Councillor Ralph Berry (Lab, Wibsey) agreed with much of what Cllr Ward said, and claimed exclusion from school can often lead to a life of crime. He said: “I’ve been raising this issue for a number of years. The link between young people in pupil referral units and the criminal justice system is pretty much linear.”

Councillor Mike Gibbons (Con, Ilkley) is chair of the Council’s Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee. He suggested the best way to look at the issue was a review by his committee, adding: “Let’s look closely at the points raised.”

Councillor Imran Khan, Executive for Education, Employment and Skills, said: “We care about every single child in this district. We are already supporting permanently excluded pupils.”

The Council voted to ask the Children’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee to “conduct a full review of children potentially suffering disadvantage in their education entitlement”.

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