A lack of consistency in monitoring children missing from education is leaving thousands of children at risk of serious harm or neglect, the National Children’s Bureau (NCB) has warned.
Based on Freedom of Information requests to local authorities, the charity estimates that 14,800 children in England are missing from education including more than 3,000 whose whereabouts are unknown.
NCB’s report on its findings warns: “If the local authority does not know these children’s whereabouts, there is a risk that they will be ‘off the radar’ for a range of services, including children’s social care, health and family support.”
The charity says its findings also show that there is major inconsistencies in how councils are recording information about children missing from education and calls on local and national government to adopt a common national approach to how they monitor the problem.
“There is the real possibility that some of these children will suffer physical and emotional harm, particularly if they are taken off the school roll and their whereabouts become unknown,” said NCB chief executive Hilary Emery.
“Recent high-profile cases of child sexual exploitation have involved children missing from education, and there is also a correlation between missing education and becoming a victim of forced marriage.
“We are calling on government to conduct a national review of children missing education, to improve the way data is collected both locally and nationally.
“The review should consider how local authorities, schools, social services and their partners can work with children and their families, to ensure they and their families receive the best support possible so they can get back into education.”
The charity’s report also says this review should examine what role local safeguarding children boards can play.