The government has this week announced new statutory procedures designed to identify those children currently missing from education and support their future needs so that no gaps can occur once they are back in the school system.

Children missing education are defined as children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll, and who are not receiving a suitable education elsewhere – for example, at home, privately, or in alternative provision. (Education and Inspection Act 2006)

The new policies, which came into force on September 1st, are compulsory and must be adhered to by all local authorities and all school leaders, school staff, governing bodies, youth offending teams, health professionals and the police.

Seen as a support framework, building on current practices, the government hopes it will help local authorities comply with their legal responsibilities to identify major school absences.

The main changes to note are that all schools (including academies and independent schools) must notify their local authority when they are about to remove a pupil’s name from the school admission register under any of the fifteen grounds listed in the regulations. This duty does not apply when a pupil has completed the final year of education normally provided by that school.

Further to this, when removing a pupil’s name, the notification to the local authority must include the full name of the pupil, the full name and address of any parent with whom the pupil normally resides, at least one telephone number of the parent and the pupil’s future address and destination school, if applicable.

Schools must make reasonable enquiries to establish the whereabouts of the child jointly with the local authority, before deleting the pupil’s name from the register .

For the first time ever, schools must inform the local authority within five days of adding a pupil’s name to the admission register at another point in the school term. The notification must include all the details contained in the admission register for the new pupil. This duty does not apply when a pupil’s name is entered at the start of the first year of education normally provided by that school – unless the local authority requests that such returns are to be made.

By instructing such rigid changes the Department for Education is hoping to show that they are taking seriously the urgent need to recognise that all children, regardless of their circumstances, are entitled to an efficient, full-time education which is suitable to their age, ability, aptitude and any special educational needs they may have.

The overwhelming majority of new material in the 2016 Children Missing Education Guidance is directed at schools, making explicit reference to academies and independent schools, and reflecting the new duties introduced by the amended Pupil Registration Regulations. Much of this is about more accurate record keeping, working more closely with the local authority, and sharing information without delay.

Councils may have long lists of “children missing education” but they can take children off the list once the new education placement is known. It is intended that more joined up working will assist greatly with this.

Sarah Carlick, founder and director of The Athena Programme, says:

“Different sectors’ cross working has, in recent years, been successful in highlighting the grey areas where information – and in this case children – can appear to go missing. The rules may appear much tighter but the rigid policing of school enrolment systems means authorities are given the opportunity and confidence to investigate why a child has moved and where to.”

It’s the ‘if nots and why nots’ that need to be eliminated if all children and their education are to become accounted for. Sarah and her team who spend every day educating communities and industry sectors about safeguarding want to see an end to missing children and a better education system that knows exactly where its children are and where they go when they leave.


Statutory guidance:

Changes listed: