Families failing to send children to nursery and school in two Sheffield neighbourhoods

A Sheffield primary school had 45 children from the Roma community join and leave within one half term.

By The Star Newsroom
Thursday, 14 March, 2019, 09:43
Families are failing to send children to nursery and school in two Sheffield neighbourhoods

The issue was highlighted as part of a council report which looks at how the Roma community is settling into Sheffield.

Council officer Andrew Jones told a meeting of the children and young people’s scrutiny board: “Between October and December 2018, one primary school had 45 changes of admissions in that half term. That’s the equivalent to a class of children leaving or arriving in one half term.”

The report looks at managing the supply and demand of school places in the Fir Vale and Burngreave areas.

Sheffield Council has declined to comment. But one of the issues is the low take-up of nursery places among two, three and four-year-olds in all groups, not just Roma.

The report says: “The take up of nursery provision continues to be low. Schools in the area are promoting take up of nursery places and other professionals across, health, education and social care working in the area are also promoting free early learning.”

The report says young Roma children who can’t speak English can become distressed at nursery.

“Language problems can be seen to have a negative impact on very young Roma children where they speak no English and parents take them to nursery.

“Children can be seen to be extremely distressed and because of this attendance is low, compounding the situation.

“It is helpful where schools have a Roma-speaking member of the staff team, however two of the schools have lost this provision, increasing the difficulties experienced encouraging the take-up of places and maintaining attendance.

“The provision continues to struggle with take-up generally with many of the nurseries experiencing low take-up and half empty nursery classes. We believe this to be cultural preferences about sending children to nursery.”

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The report says there has been a small increase in the percentage of Roma children accessing nursery provision since the opening of Hope Nursery. The private nursery bought a minibus to ferry children between home and nursery, which families welcomed.

But the nursery recently received an inadequate rating from Ofsted. It has declined to comment.

The council report says: “There are tensions between the nursery and schools, mainly due to perceived quality issues. Quality improvement staff in the area are striving to develop good working relationships with the setting.”

The report also looks at how to address the low levels of attendance of school pupils with a Roma heritage from Central and Eastern Europe.

The council has a protocol which helps keep siblings together at school. The report says: “Sheffield will support all children, including the Roma children, in getting into a local school where the allocated school is considered unreasonable in terms of distance or where there are split siblings.

“It is not automatic that a school will agree to go above number to accommodate a request to accommodate siblings.

“In the 2016/17 academic Year 13 places were offered in Burngreave and Fir Vale at schools under the protocol. These places were offered above the normal admission number in the absence of a reasonable alternative.

“Schools in the north are especially responsive to going above number in order to keep siblings together. This is hugely significant for families and also for supporting attendance at schools.

“Reception numbers are lower than in previous years and there are consequently more available places in the system. There is still pressure in other year groups so accommodating siblings remains a challenge.”

The full report can be read here: http://democracy.sheffield.gov.uk/documents/s34282/Support%20for%20Roma%20Children.pdf