Number of children missing from education rises by a third since 2019

The number of children missing from education has increased by more than a third in three years, according to Essex County Council.

Children missing from education are defined as children of compulsory school age who are not registered pupils at a school and are not receiving suitable education anywhere else.

In March 2019 Essex County Council determined there were 245 pupils deemed as children missing education. As at December 31 2022 330 children were listed as missing education. That’s a 35 per cent increase.

Research suggests the impact of children missing education leads to worse prospects for future employment, poorer mental health and emotional wellbeing, restricted social and emotional development and increased vulnerability to safeguarding issues and criminal exploitation.

Children missing out on a formal full-time education can also have significant emotional and financial implications, be detrimental to communities.

An LGA report has highlighted the complexity of trying to identify missing children – they can be found at home receiving different forms of educational input or none at all. They can be found in employment and they can be simply unknown to those providing services in the community.

The numbers list as receiving a home education are even more stark.

In March 2019 Essex County Council determined 1,647 children were being home educated. By December 31 2022, 2,616 children and young people were listed as electively home educated – that’s an almost 60 per cent increase.

Parents are allowed by law to home school their children, but the dramatic increases have sparked concern that while it is clear some children will be properly educated at home, some children are not receiving a decent – if any – education.

Councillor Ray Gooding, cabinet member for education, says this is particularly relevant given increasing evidence that children who are not in school are becoming involved in gang and county lines activity.

Robert Halfon, MP for Harlow and chairman of the education select committee has said around 1.7m children in England – equivalent to one in five – are persistently absent from school (missing more than 10 per cent of sessions) and are at risk of never catching up. Another 124,000 children are severely absent, turning up for only half or less of their education.

In addition there are the unknown quantities of CMEs who he said have “simply vanished”. Writing in the House Magazine in October Mr Halfon called for a statutory register of those children not in school.

He said: “The image of a desolate morning roll-call is bleak, but the absences recorded on them represent only those children known to authorities. Local authorities have no watertight way of knowing the exact number of children resident in their local area.

“Office for National Statistics figures rely on the last census, which was in 2011. GP records omit those who are simply not registered with a doctor.

“Using a combination of data sources would provide more accurate and up-to-date estimates. It is imperative, as Dame de Souza suggested in her March report, that schools and LAs work together, and at once, to better monitor all children in their authority. This must include a statutory register of those children not in school, as the education committee recommended last July.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter