A council has been criticised by Ofsted for allowing its social workers to routinely visit children during school hours.

An article in Community Care explains that Ofsted says the practice could harm children’s educational outcomes –  in the area under inspection, boys and girls were missing lessons to meet with social workers.

Those of us assisting parents across the country know that this practice isn’t just limited to Torbay (the council pulled up by Ofsted, in the article).

We also know that there’s much more at stake than children missing class.

Social workers visiting children at school is a common occurrence everywhere which local authorities allow on the basis that children may feel more able to open up about their concerns, away from their parents and in a ‘safe’ place.

In reality, this policy – and we are not even sure if this is a ‘real’ policy and what legislation or guidelines permit it, if it is – often causes children deep anxiety. Having strangers infiltrate your environment, often un-announced, is hugely traumatic for children. Being asked intensely personal questions, by strangers, in a formal environment which doesn’t feel quite like home (how many children really love being at school enough that it’s home from home for them?) without their parents is destabilising, and this practice needs to be looked at.

Whilst we have every sympathy for social workers trying to protect children, the custom of turning up at children’s schools and interrogating them on school premises is misguided, and it’s not professional.

What do you think? Are we being unfair, or is it time the government issued guidelines on how and where social workers should meet with children?

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