County lines report calls on Ofsted to prioritise inclusion

Ofsted should radically change its approach to how it assesses schools to stop vulnerable children from being lured into dealing drugs as part of the so-called county lines crisis, according to a report commissioned by the Home Office. The Guardian reports.

The education watchdog’s criteria should be reviewed to encourage better “inclusion and support” as well as training for teachers, according to the report, which is due to be published on Thursday.

It comes amid concern around county lines gangs who use children to traffic drugs from inner-city areas to provincial towns, where they are used to sell drugs.

The report, published by the charity, which supports young people caught up in offending, focused on the work of a Home Office-funded pilot project it ran between September 2017 and September 2018. The work has carried on since the pilot finished.

It involved 38 children who were given one-to-one casework support. Of the 35 children remaining in the caseload in September 2018, 85% were effectively helped either by leaving county lines gangs or decreasing their activity in them.

“By spring 2018, all children being supported were from Kent, confirming the trend for increased recruitment of local children into county lines activity. There are fewer referrals of girls to the service and they have proved more difficult to engage. However, the new cohort of referrals made in early October 2018 includes, for the first time, girls who are being sexually exploited and used as drug mules by the same county line,” the report said.

Evan Jones, head of community services at the St Giles Trust charity, which published the report said “The county lines intelligence centre is trying to get its head around how big the problem is … We contribute what we can to that knowledge but we just know when you open a service offering support to young people involved in county lines, it fills immediately” 

The charity’s work was judged a success, but recommendations were made about how to improve the situation. One of the recommendations was around alternative mainstream education provision, which the charity said should be urgently reviewed to help vulnerable children. “This should include reviewing Ofsted criteria to incentivise better inclusion and support, and training/development for teachers and support staff,” the report found.

Read the full article County lines report calls on Ofsted to prioritise inclusion

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