Team Square Peg CIC Logo

Hove | Education & Training


Raised in 2024




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We’re here to effect change for all those children and young people who are ‘square pegs’ and don’t fit an increasingly inflexible education system. What should change, the square peg or the system? Too often it’s the square peg that’s forced into a round hole in this one-size-fits-all system.

Square Peg aims to effect change for children being failed by the current system, in particular – but not exclusively – school ‘refusers’. We work closely with Not Fine In School, another organisation supporting the same families. We have three main areas of focus – legislation, research and campaigning – with a network of 100+ contacts in academia and practice, across a broad range of expertise. In just over a year we’ve been featured on CH4 News, BBC Breakfast and in The Observer and have put persistent absence on the Children Commissioner’s strategic priority list for 2020/21. We’ve been a voluntary social enterprise for over a year but have now become a CIC to grow the team and look for financial support.   

The problem
A growing number of children struggle to attend (there are currently 771,863 persistent absentees – that’s 11% of the school population). This may be due to unmet Special Educational Needs or Disabilities (SEND), bullying, trauma, physical illness or severe anxiety and often leads to severe consequences for both child and family. Exclusion is the other side of this coin and is simply a different response to unmet need. Both groups comprise significant numbers of the ‘usual suspects’ – children with SEND, on Free School Meals and in ethnic minorities.

Problems have been exacerbated by school budget cuts, an overly academic curriculum, increased testing and broken SEND and mental health systems, as well as the general impact of austerity. Schools are judged primarily on attendance and attainment, and often face conflicting agenda between protecting pupil wellbeing and the requirements of DfE/local authority/academy trust/Ofsted. All of these factors are contributing to adverse childhood experiences in a system that does not prioritise trauma-aware practice.

The consequences
The consequences for families when a child struggles to attend can be catastrophic, ranging from the threat of fines and prosecution to financial hardship (with one parent often having to give up work), extreme stress and worry, and a child who is receiving no support and no education (despite s19 legal duties). Unlawful practices (amongst schools, trusts and local authorities) are common, due to a lack of understanding, in order to gatekeep shrinking budgets or to protect attendance and attainment statistics.

What's needed?
The good news is that there is another way, and there are many who are advocating for change. We are in this conversation, connecting with influencers and thought leaders and actively looking for approaches that promote inclusivity, personalisation and emotional wellbeing – that deliver education ‘with children’ and not ‘to’ them.           

What your gift could provide


travel expenses for meetings with key influencers such as The Children Commissioner's office


help us organise an event to raise awareness


go towards funding a helpline for the families of children struggling with school attendance

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