Last week I attended the annual Damilola Taylor memorial lecture. The word ‘inspired’ is often over-used but it is what I genuinely felt.
The speakers included many key players working in fields such as housing, politics (Vicky Foxcroft MP), social enterprise and academia. Most significantly, it included those who founded the Scottish Violence Reduction Unit who have had such success, in Glasgow in particular, and from whom London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan seeks to learn. If he has not had a long conversation with both Richard Taylor OBE, Damilola’s father, and Gary Trowsdale, who organised the event and knows everyone worth knowing in this area, then that would be an excellent place to start.
I am more of a voyeur on twitter than a participant but I was so moved by it all that I started tweeting (and tweeting and tweeting). And then my phone began to buzz. With fewer than a thousand followers it is not as though this particular comment went viral, but it did appear to strike a nerve with more than a few. Within the thread I commented upon the lack of progress since Damilola’s death, and reflected upon the significance that the Every Child Matters agenda had around that time (post tweet note, Damilola died in late 2000, and ECM was launched in 2003) and said that
‘the unfortunate truth now is that every child does not matter. Not to the same extent. If they did the PRUs would not be so full. The ‘home educated’ numbers would not be where they are. Off rolling would not be the issue that it is, let alone the issue it needs to be’
There was one reply (‘does not matter to whom’) which I did not reply to, mostly because I was not sure what my answer would be. I am still not sure. No one would want to say that a child, or a group of children, does not matter and may not intend to infer it either. Yet if mainstream education is where so many students do not end up (check out this front page article from The Times in August 2018), then the answer must lie somewhere. We now know the numbers, we do not know what lies within (what proportion are pupil premium? ethnicity split? and so on).
There are no simple answers, and all of the decent ones require funding. If schools remained accountable for everyone who started year 10 but were still in the country it would change behaviour significantly. If local authorities had the resources to investigate with some intensity the rise in home educated students in their own area as a mini Serious Case Review many cases would pass without incident, but elsewhere much would be unearthed. If the head of every Pupil Referral Unit was contacted during an Ofsted inspection for a mainstream school elsewhere in the borough for some statistics and comments then some relationships would have to change. If a significant fall from year 10 to year 11 was a reason for a snap ‘we’re in the car park already’ safeguarding inspection, then school would prepare and double check their answers.
Inclusion really matters. Students do not evaporate when they collect their GCSE or A level results, or at any other time when they leave the school. What will happen to the 13,000 (see The Times link above) who did not have results recorded ‘despite appearing on their schools’ rolls a year earlier? What has happened to them already? If every child still mattered, those in government would want an answer to those questions.