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Learning briefing: Thematic review – Children returning to school in August 2022 

1. Learning Journey: What did we do?

We set out to look at children returning to school through the pandemic period, and, in particular, to look at groups who appeared to have had an increase in vulnerability and/or an increase in numbers. Those groups were:

  • Persistent absentees
  • Young Carers
  • Children who are electively home educate
  • Children subject to fixed term exclusions

How did we do that?

  • We reviewed research and data available (local and national)
  • We reviewed all relevant rapid reviews and LCSPRs in the last 24 months
  • We completed tabletop exercises regarding Young Carers and to review 30+ Absence assessments
  • We conducted Practitioner/Manager surveys
  • We reviewed of training already on offer, the take up and impact of the training
  • We undertook appreciative inquiries to follow the journey of children who are Electively Home Educated (EHE) and supported by the EHE Family Support Worker (bespoke meetings) and professionals’ interviews of key agency representatives

2. What good practice did we find?

  • School and education settings in Devon had provided education offers throughout the pandemic period, including through three national lockdowns
  • Line of sight and education had been maintained through a very difficult period for all
  • Restorative and relational approaches achieve better outcomes for children and families, regardless of presentation, but most particularly when there are additional needs and support requirements

3. What else did we find?

  • With an increase in Elective Home Education (EHE) take up and a limited EHE resource, the identification of vulnerability and the potential for spotting/addressing safeguarding concerns is made more difficult
  • Regular monthly meetings with Babcock EHE team, MASH manager and health to review MASH referrals have ceased throughout the pandemic period
  • The pandemic has seen an increase in children presenting with mental health issues and particularly a rise in school-based anxiety
  • Practitioners are finding themselves facing significant challenges in the behaviours of children and the adults caring for children
  • Families told us that their children’s transitions into specialist provision was disrupted by lack of timely assessment
  • Delays accessing specialist provision for assessing, supporting, and treating children has been compounded due to the pandemic
  • Support and supervision for staff across the partnership, and particularly in education, is not provided consistently and regularly
  • Parents told us that they did not always feel heard and felt done to, rather than worked with

4. What can we learn?

  • Limited Elective Home Education (EHE) support capacity may continue, once new government legislation for registering EHE students comes into force, to provide difficulties in the identification of vulnerability and the potential for spotting/addressing safeguarding concerns
  • It is not possible to review progress of MASH referrals where EHE has been identified.  How can this be ratified?
  • More needs to be done to identify and intervene earlier.  Lack of capacity (both workforce and time) during the pandemic has significantly delayed access to specialist provision support.  How can services introduce/increase capacity post pandemic recovery?
  • Those supporting complex cases would welcome consistent and regular supervision.  What would effective supervision look like?
  • Professionals and practitioners need to ensure parents feel listened to and provide the appropriate level of challenge and support to enable a restorative and relational approach

5. What are the recommendations?

  • Increase in Elective Home Education (EHE) Team resource to reflect current and future demand on the service to keep children electively home educated safe and ensure education provision is adequate
  • Support schools to provide whole school approaches to emotional resilience and increase provision for direct mental health support for those that need it
  • Reinstate the monthly EHE/MASH/Health meetings for new EHE safeguarding referrals
  • Support and supervision for staff across the partnership should be provided consistently and regularly. We need to look after the emotional resilience of our workforce
  • Continued roll out and training of relational and restorative approaches across the partnership. Trauma informed relational approaches should be applied in schools, to work with behaviours that are challenging and reduce the use of exclusions

6. What can you do?

  • Read and share the review and briefing with colleagues and discuss the learning in team meetings, supervision and 1-2-1s
  • Attend relational and restorative support training and cascade to colleagues Further information and Training
  • Be curious about relational approaches ‘when the adults change, everything changes’
  • Keep an eye out for your colleagues during post pandemic recovery?  Would they welcome some support?
  • Identify areas for your/your settings learning and improvement

If you are worried about the safety or wellbeing of a child or young person in Devon,
please complete the request for support online form.


If you think that the child is at risk of significant harm,
contact our Front Door directly by calling 0345 155 1071.


In an emergency call 999.