Ministers urged to help 50,000 children ‘missing’ from education
Ministers have been urged to help the 50,000 children who miss out on education each year and could be exposed to radicalisation, trafficking and exploitation.
There is no national database that records children missing education (CME), an article published by The Sunday Telegraph states. CME pupils are not registered as pupils at a school and are not receiving suitable education elsewhere, according to official guidance.
It is up to local authorities to record data on CME, but the information they hold is patchy and many are unable to say whether these children are known to social services, according to research by the National Children’s Bureau (NCB).
“The danger is that these are children who are potentially off the radar,” said Zoe Renton, head of policy and public affairs at the NCB, whose team carried out the research, told The Sunday Telegraph.
“These are children who aren’t engaged with education, they may not be engaged with social services. The contacts that could be there to protect them to secure their welfare won’t be there. We are missing out opportunities to help vulnerable children.”
Last year, there were 49,187 children reported as missing from education, according to data obtained from local authorities by the NCB, under freedom of information requests.
The NCB’s report urges ministers to collect and analyse national-level data on CME.
Statutory guidance for local authorities states that children reported as missing education are at “significant risk” of “underachieving, being victims of harm, exploitation or radicalisation”.
Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the NCB said it is “alarming” that so many children are missing education, adding that the government must step up its efforts to protect this group.
The NCB’s report, which will be launched this week, urges ministers to collect and analyse national-level data on CME, and review statutory guidance on how local authorities collect and record information on this.
Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said the research exposes how thousands of children are being failed because the system allows them to “fall through the gap”.
She told The Sunday Telegraph that is “particularly shocking” that the government does not even know for sure how many.
Ms Longfield said there must be better data collection and a “real determination” from local and national government to identify children not in education “both to stop this happening in the future and to provide better protection for those who the system is currently letting down”.
Cllr Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said that councils have “long held concerns” that children missing school may not be receiving a suitable education.
‘Duty on parents’
Local councils are required to make “reasonable enquiries” to establish the whereabouts of a pupil who has not attended school for 20 consecutive days before removing the child from the register.
Mr Watts said he welcomed a recent change to statutory guidance that means schools must now inform local authorities if a pupil is taken off the register, but added that laws still need to be stronger.
“While this helps councils both identify children at risk and unregistered schools, we believe a duty on parents to register home educated children with local councils would further help councils meet their safeguarding duties,” he said.
When children are taken off a school’s register, local councils should also be informed about the destination school and family’s home address, he said.
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Councils already have a duty to intervene if there are safeguarding concerns or if they believe children are not receiving a safe and suitable education.
“We are due to revise the guidance for local authorities and parents on the roles and responsibilities of educating children at home.”