Children Missing Education Guidance

Legal references on this page apply to England.

Local authorities have a duty under section 436a Education Act 1996 to make arrangements to identify children outside school who aren't receiving education. 436A was introduced by the Education and Inspection Act 2006 and became law in February 2007. The current GOV.UK web page on Children Missing Education is here

Children Missing Education Guidance was first issued in 2007 and subsequently revised in 2009, 2013 and 2015. Each new version supersedes the last. The latest guidance was published in September 2016 to align with changes to the Pupil Registration Regulations

Government home education guidance 2019 says "Until a local authority is satisfied that a home-educated child is receiving a suitable full-time education, then a child being educated at home is potentially in scope of this duty. The department’s children missing education statutory guidance for local authorities applies. However, this should not be taken as implying that it is the responsibility of parents under s.436A to ‘prove’ that education at home is suitable. A proportionate approach needs to be taken."

Here is the relevant extract from current CME guidance: "There are many reasons why a child stops attending a school. It could be because the parent chooses to home educate their child. However, where the reason for a child who has stopped attending a school is not known [my emphasis], the local authority should investigate the case and satisfy itself that the child is receiving suitable education."

436A Duty to make arrangements to identify children not receiving education
(1) A local education authority must make arrangements to enable them to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age but —
(a) are not registered pupils at a school, and
(b) are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.
(2) In exercising their functions under this section a local education authority must have regard to any guidance given from time to time by the Secretary of State.
(3) In this Chapter, "suitable education", in relation to a child, means efficient full-time education suitable to his age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs he may have."

In Autumn 2022 the government began to ask local authorities for "termly aggregate data returns on EHE children and CME on a voluntary basis." Read more here

Summary Main Changes September 2016

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 1 (Annex A). This duty does not apply when a pupil’s name is removed from the admission register at standard transition points – when the pupil has completed the final year of education normally provided by that school – unless the local authority requests that such returns are to be made.

When removing a pupil’s name, the notification to the local authority must include: (a) the full name of the pupil, (b) the full name and address of any parent with whom the pupil normally resides, (c) at least one telephone number of the parent, (d) the pupil’s future address and destination school, if applicable, and (e) the ground in regulation 8 under which the pupil’s name is to be removed from the admission register (see Annex A).

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 if the deletion is under regulation 8(1), sub-paragraphs (f)(iii) and (h)(iii) (see Annex A).

All schools must also notify the local authority within five days of adding a pupil’s name to the admission register at a non-standard transition point. 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 in the admission register at a standard transition point – 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.

More Detail on 2016 Changes

The 2016 CME guidance is more than twice as long as the previous version. The majority of new material is directed at schools, making explicit reference to academies and independent schools, requiring more accurate record keeping, working more closely with the local authority, and sharing information without delay.

The emphasis is on "non-standard transition points": "Schools are under an automatic duty to provide information to the local authority for non-standard transitions. This relates to pupils removed from the admission register before completing the final year of education normally provided by the school, or pupils added to the admission register after the start of the first year of education normally provided by that school."

All schools are legally required to notify the local authority within five days when a pupil’s name is added to the admission register at a non-standard transition point. This includes independent schools and maintained schools eg where the family has applied directly to the school for in-year admission rather than going through the council.

Where pupils fail to turn up at school as expected there are new legal duties for schools, including academies and independent schools. This could include the child never turning up in the first place, where a pupil starts missing school sessions, or pupils failing to return altogether after a holiday.

Where children have actually left the school there is also much more to do, both for schools and for councils. If there is evidence to suggest the child has moved to a different local authority area but the original authority doesn't have details of the new school, contact should be made with the named Children Missing Education person in the new authority.

Where the local authority is aware that a pupil has moved out of the area, but the LA doesn't know exactly where, the new guidance says "best practice is for local authorities to carry out thorough local checks in their own authority area before contacting specific local authorities that they believe to be linked to the child." The guidance says the original local authority should maintain a record of the child’s details either until they are located or attain school leaving age.

Schools must record and report if a parent tells them the child is to attend a different school. The new CME guidance re-introduces material from 2009 about the Common Transfer File system, this time with more reference to academies, free schools and independent schools. The guidance also says that independent schools can be given access to school2school and notes that many independent schools also have Management Information Systems that are compatible with those used in the maintained sector and so would be able to download CTFs.

There is a checklist at the end of the new CME guidance of the circumstances in which schools are legally allowed to delete the pupil's name from the school roll, and how they must now inform the council A pupil’s name can now ONLY be removed from the admission register if the school and the local authority have failed to establish the pupil’s whereabouts after jointly making reasonable enquiries. The guidance explains that the term ‘reasonable’ also makes clear that there is a limit to what the school and local authority is expected to do adding that the type of procedures may include the appropriate person checking with relatives, neighbours, landlords – private or social housing providers – and other local stakeholders who are involved.

The Government is leaving it up to councils to decide about requesting information from schools at "standard transitions" eg finishing primary and starting at secondary.

Intending to Home Educate

As of 2016 the CME guidance now says "Where a parent notifies the school in writing that they are home educating, the school must delete the child’s name from the admission register and inform the local authority. However, where parents orally indicate that they intend to withdraw their child to be home educated, the school should consider notifying the local authority at the earliest opportunity."

In my view, this is much clearer than any previous guidance, because I have always maintained there should be more of a distinction between a/ parents telling the school they are "thinking about" home education, and b/ parents actually sending the formal letter saying they have taken responsibility and requesting that the school deletes the child's name from the roll.

Before parents have sent in the official letter, there is more leeway - or opportunity, depending on how you look at it - for conversation with parents, schools and the council.

Where home education is being considered out of desperation with school, it can be a chance to look at unmet special needs, alternative provision or even a transfer to another school if this is what parents want.

In practice however it can also be a way to undermine parents' confidence in their ability to home educate, to the extent that I warn against any advance notice of "intention" to home educate and instead say it's better for parents to ask directly for support or intervention where applicable.

Once the parents' formal letter has been sent, the Pupil Registration Regulation are clear that the child's name must be deleted unless it is a special school or if a School Attendance Order is in force. My deregistration page is here

Related Pages

School Roll Regulations
Schools Bill The Schools Bill has been DROPPED
The Law Starting page for law relating to home education
Child's Right to Education The law is phrased in the negative -"no one shall be denied the right to education"
Legal Presentation by barrister Ian Dowty
School Attendance Orders section 437 - 443 - LA can't register your child at school
Portsmouth Judicial Review The judge ruled that Portsmouth council was not acting outside the law
Government Home Education Guidance The Guidance is non-statutory and does not introduce new powers or duties
Deregistration Taking a child out of school
School Leaving Age Raised to 18 but not compulsory
Educational Philosophy When and how to write an ed phil
Autonomous Education Explaining your values and suitability to the individual child
SEN Introduction home education and special needs

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