Table of Contents
Section 436A of the Education Act 1996 dealing with "children missing education" was introduced by the Education and Inspection Act 2006 and became law in February 2007. The current GOV.UK web page is here
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."
New Guidance on Children Missing Education was published on September 5th 2016 to align with changes to the Pupil Registration Regulations which came into force on September 1st 2016 enabling more robust tracking of children who are not in school.
Children Missing Education numbers obtained from Freedom of Information requests publicised by the Victoria Derbyshire show at the end of November 2016 relate to a PREVIOUS academic year (ending July 2015) BEFORE these new measures were introduced.
With the new changes to the Pupil Registration Regulations, schools can no longer just take a pupil off the roll without informing the local authority, which they have been allowed to do in the past, and the CME guidance sets out the new legal requirements.
To be clear, schools have ALWAYS had to tell the council about children coming out of school to be home educated, so the new regulations aren't about schools having failed to do something they were legally required to do in the past, it is about NEW DUTIES for all schools and it is made clear that this includes academies and independent schools.
In 2015 Ofsted said that high numbers of pupils coming out of school and disappearing from school rolls without anyone in authority knowing where the children had gone, particularly in the case of independent schools.
Sir Michael Wilshaw said this was a safeguarding risk because "we cannot be sure that some of the children whose destinations are unknown are not being exposed to harm, exploitation or the influence of extremist ideologies" adding that "we do not know whether these children are ending up in unregistered provision".
In response, as of September 1st 2016, the Government has now introduced new requirements for all schools to collect and record more detail about onward destinations, and to share this with the local authority on a regular basis.
In addition, Sir Michael said local authorities should be required to check the whereabouts of children coming out of schools, and this is ALSO covered in the new rules. More
(In a related area, the Government has given Ofsted more backing for a crackdown on illegal unregistered schools although plans for light touch regulation of part-time provision do not seem to have made much progress)
Summary Main Changes September 2016
EXTRACT FROM 2016 CME Guidance
"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.
When adding a pupil’s name, the notification to the local authority must include all the details contained in the admission register for the new pupil."
More Detail on 2016 Changes
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.
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 now 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.
In addition, 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 [not must] 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 new CME guidance strongly encourages academies and free schools to send CTFs [Common Transfer File] when a pupil leaves to attend another school. The new 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" and the CME guidance says 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."
"When the whereabouts of a child is unclear or unknown, it is reasonable to expect that the local authority and the school will complete and record one or more [my emphasis] of the following actions:
a. make contact with the parent, relatives and neighbours using known contact details;
b. check local databases within the local authority;
c. check Key to Success or school2school (s2s) systems;
d. follow local information sharing arrangements and where possible make enquiries via other local databases and agencies e.g. those of housing providers, school admissions, health services, police, refuge, Youth Justice Services, children’s social care, and HMRC;
e. check with UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and/or the Border Force;
f. check with agencies known to be involved with family;
g. check with local authority and school from which child moved originally, if known;
h. check with any local authority and school to which a child may have moved;
i. check with the local authority where the child lives, if different from where the school is;
j. in the case of children of Service Personnel, check with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Children’s Education Advisory Service (CEAS); and
k. home visit(s) made by appropriate team, following local guidance concerning risk assessment and if appropriate make enquiries with neighbour(s) and relatives.
This list is not exhaustive or prescriptive [my emphasis], and so local authorities and schools should treat each case on its individual merits and use their judgement, ensuring they have taken into account all of the facts of the case. It should be recognised that the type of reasonable enquiries required to try to locate a child will differ from case to case and additional enquiries to those suggested in this section may be necessary.
Making these enquiries may not always lead to establishing the location of the child, but will provide a steer on what action should be taken next, for example, to contact the police, children’s social care and, in cases where there may be concerns for the safety of a child who has travelled abroad, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office."
The new guidance also explains that schools will have extra duties in terms of reporting pupils at "standard transitions" eg finishing primary and starting at secondary IF AND ONLY IF their local authority requests that this information is provided. The Government is leaving it up to councils to decide.
Changes for Home Educators
For home educators, one sentence has been modified and another has been added to the new CME guidance.
"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." [my emphasis]
"Where a parent notifies the school in writing of their intention to home educate, the school must delete the child from its admission register and then inform the local authority."
In my view, this is much clearer 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.
Up till now, the word "intention" has muddied the waters, because it sounds definitive, yet parents haven't taken the crucial final step. 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.
In my experience, many local authorities do already ask schools to let them know if a parent "intends" to home educate, but this has been WRONGLY interpreted by schools and councils as "when the parent sends the deregistration letter". However, once the parents' formal letter has been sent, the Pupil Registration Regulation are clear that the child's name must be deleted (excepting special schools)
The part about home education with special needs has also been updated to include EHCPs.
"Children with Education, Health and Care (EHC) plans or statements of special educational needs (SEN) can be home educated. Where the EHC plan or statement sets out SEN provision that the child should receive at home, the local authority is under a duty to arrange that provision. Where the EHC plan or statement names a school or type of school as the place where the child should receive his or her education but the parent chooses to home educate their child, the local authority must assure itself that the provision being made by the parent is suitable. In such cases, the local authority must review the plan or statement annually to assure itself that the provision set out in it continues to be appropriate and that the child’s SEN continue to be met."
"Children with special educational needs statements can be home educated. Where the statement sets out special educational provision that the child should receive at home, the local authority is under a duty to arrange that provision. Where the statement names a school as the place where the child should receive his or her education but the parent chooses to home educate their child, the local authority must assure itself that the provision being made by the parent is suitable to the child’s special educational needs. In such case the local authority must review the statement annually."