10,000 children ‘not attending school’
As many as 10,000 children are missing out on full-time education, with many of them left vulnerable to abuse or getting involved in antisocial behaviour, Ofsted has warned.
Following visits by Ofsted inspectors to 15 local authorities, it was found that a combined total of 1,400 children were being educated part time.
Extrapolated across all local authorities in England, this would mean more than 10,000 children are missing out on full-time education.
A report by the regulator warned that the children were at risk of being “invisible to local authorities”.
“If no-one in authority knows what education these children and young people receive each week, or whether they even attend, they not only miss out on education but can be vulnerable to abuse,” Ofsted chief inspector Michael Wilshaw said.
“Everyone must take greater responsibility for knowing where they are.”
Inspectors found that the main reasons children were missing education was because they had been permanently excluded; have social and behavioural problems; mental health or other medical problems; are pregnant; or have complex needs.
Inspectors found that some authorities were good at ensuring no children “slip out of sight”. However, other local authorities were failing to properly arrange and monitor education for children directly in their care.
Only a third of the local authorities visited for the survey were found to keep a close enough eye on these children and gather information and analyse it centrally.
“It is simply not acceptable that only a third of local authorities have a detailed understanding of what is happening to pupils who are not receiving full-time education,” Wilshaw added.
“Ofsted is shining a spotlight on these failings.
“Our new arrangements for inspecting children’s social care services, which starts this month, will request a specific report on school-age children who are not attending full-time education.
“Everyone must take greater responsibility for knowing where these children are. We owe it to them to ensure they are safe and can succeed.”
The report recommends that local authorities and schools should establish a central record of children not accessing full-time education, including those who are accessing alternative provision full-time away from mainstream school.
They should also identify clear lines of accountability and share information across local authority boundaries and other agencies.
Children’s commissioner for England, Maggie Atkinson said many of the findings echo those of her inquiry into school exclusions.
“I also found evidence of children being illegally excluded from school, and of local authorities who could not tell me how many of their children were not receiving education,” she said.
“I strongly endorse Ofsted’s recommendation that local authority inspections should examine the location of children not in school.
“This should encompass all children in the area, not just those in local authority schools.”
Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT teachers’ union, said that local authorities’ ability to ensure all children receive a suitable education had been “systematically undermined” by the government.
“The coalition government’s structural reform has fragmented the school system and severed important links between schools and local authorities.
“Savage cuts to local authority budgets mean that capacity within local authority services to ensure children are receiving a suitable education has been severely reduced.”