1.4.13 Children Missing from Education
SCOPE OF THIS CHAPTER
Children Missing Education (CME) are defined as children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll and who are not receiving a suitable education (e.g. they are not privately educated, being educated at home or accessing alternative provision). Children Missing Education are at risk of not achieving their academic potential, becoming victims of harm, abuse, exploitation and becoming involved in crime, gang related activity or radicalisation. Later in life, children who have missed education are more likely to be not in education, employment or training (NEET). The definition of Children Missing Education does not include children who are already on a school roll but who are not attending regularly.
Local authorities have a duty to identify, as far as it is possible to do so, children in their area who are not receiving a 'suitable education' and support them back into education. This duty extends to locating children who have left the authority and whose whereabouts are not yet known. For more details, please see: Children Missing Education - Statutory Guidance for local authorities (DfE).
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AMENDMENTIn June 2021, this guidance was reviewed throughout and extensively updated.
1. Who are Children Missing Education?
Children Missing Education (CME) are children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll and who are not receiving a suitable education (e.g. they are not privately educated, being educated at home or accessing alternative provision).
The following factors can lead to a child missing education:
- Transient families;
- Families who are fleeing domestic abuse or other problems such as debt;
- Children who have not secured a place in a school in another local authority area following a house move;
- Change in family circumstance such as breakup; and
- Families who do not see education as important and who choose not to educate their children.
Furthermore, some groups of children are at increased risk of missing education. These include:
- Children suffering, or at risk of, abuse or neglect;
- Children from Gypsy, Roma or Traveller (GRT) Families;
- Children from Service Personnel families;
- Children who have runaway or gone missing from home or care;
- Children supervised by Youth Offending Teams;
- Children of new migrant families;
- Children with disabilities or special educational needs;
- Children at risk of forced marriage, so called honour based abuse or female genital mutilation;
- Teenage parents; and
- Young carers.
2. What are the Risks to these Children and Young People?
All children missing education are vulnerable; they may be at risk of abuse, neglect, sexual or criminal exploitation, and radicalisation, as well as academic underachievement and poor outcomes.
The longer children remain disengaged from education, the higher the degree of risk they will be potentially exposed to.
Children who go missing or run away from home or care may be in serious danger, and are vulnerable to crime, criminal or sexual exploitation or abduction as well as missing education. See West Yorkshire Joint Protocol for Children Missing from Home or Care.
3. Action to Take if you have Concerns
It is essential that all services work together to identify and re-engage these children back into appropriate education provision as quickly as possible. It is important to establish the reasons for the child being missing at the earliest possible stage.
All professionals working with children and families should act when they are aware of or believe that a child of statutory school age is missing education. Reasonable enquiries should be made in the first instance and as much basic information should be collated as possible including names, addresses, contact details, emails, details of other family members, friends etc. This information should then be shared with the Children Missing Education Team in the local authority (see Local Contacts for Education Welfare / Children Missing Education Teams).
If a child in the following circumstances is believed to be missing education, a referral to Children's Social Care Services should also always be made promptly:
- The child may be the victim of a crime (including child exploitation); or
- There is a known person posing a risk to children in the household or in contact with the household.
Where the child is either Looked After, is subject of a Child Protection Plan, is subject of Section 47 enquiries or a Child in Need Plan, then their allocated social worker should be notified if the child is believed to be missing education.
Effective information sharing between all agencies working with children and families is critical to ensuring that all children of compulsory school age are safe and receiving suitable education.
4. Unregistered Schools
An unregistered school is a setting that is operating as an independent school, but without the required registration / oversight from the Department for Education. Independent schools in England must be registered by the Secretary of State for Education before operating. It is a criminal offence to operate an independent school that is not registered.
An 'independent school' is defined as a school that is not maintained by a local authority or is not a non-maintained special school, and at which full-time education is provided for:
- Five or more pupils of compulsory school age; or
- For at least one pupil of that age who is looked after by a local authority or has an education, health and care plan.
The term "full-time" is not defined in legislation, but Department for Education guidance states that an institution providing education for more than 18 hours per week is considered to be providing full-time education.
Unregistered schools may operate for a variety of reasons of including, to offer alternative provision (for pupils who do not attend mainstream school due to school exclusion, behaviour issues, school refusal, or short- or long-term illness), as general education providers (including for home educated children) or religious instruction.
Where unregistered schools are found to have been operating illegally, it may be because of a lack of awareness of legislation or an administrative oversight, however children in these settings are potentially at risk because there is no formal, external scrutiny of the arrangements for safeguarding, health and safety or the quality of education provided. In addition, staff may not have had the necessary training or employment checks to ensure they are safe to work with children.
If any practitioner has concerns in relation to a potential unregistered school, these should be shared with the local authority.
See: Regulating independent schools (GOV.UK) for more information.