Nearly 50,000 children not receiving suitable education

The National Children’s Bureau has raised concerns over the welfare of children missing education in England as new research shows 49,187 children were missing education at some point in 2016-17.

Children missing education (CME), who are defined as children of compulsory school age who are not registered pupils at a school and are not receiving suitable education elsewhere, are statistically more likely to be at significant risk of underachieving, be victims of harm, exploitation or radicalisation, and become NEET (not in education, employment or training) later in life.

Local authority data suggests a potential link with both poverty and being referred to social services. The proportion of CME who were eligible for free school meals when they were last in school is nine percentage points higher than average, highlighting the link between deprivation and poor education outcomes. The research also showed that 15 per cent of CME were ‘known’ to social services.

The National Children’s Bureau is calling on the Department for Education to take urgent action to update statutory guidance to address the wild variation and gaps in local authority data and collect data at the national level so there is a clearer picture of progress in tracing and meeting the needs of these vulnerable children.

Anna Feuchtwang, chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, said: “It is alarming that thousands of children are missing education every year, and vital that each one gets the right support to protect them from harm and support them back into learning. The government has the opportunity now to update the statutory guidance and take action to understand and protect this vulnerable group.”