29th July 2022

No more known unknowns

My Attendance Audit so far has included surveying all local authorities, carrying out a deep-dive in 10 local authorities to get to the root of school absence and a detailed investigation of the daily attendance patterns in autumn 2021.  

A consistent finding from all this research was that there are children who have become ‘known unknowns’ to the system, children who are known to be missing from education, but no one knows where they are or why they have dropped out of education. In my report, ‘Voices of England’s Missing Children’ I set out an ambition that there would be no more known unknowns. A lack of information should no longer be the reason why children are not receiving a suitable education.   

One group of children I am particularly concerned about are those who are in care but are not receiving a suitable education. My Help at Hand team, who provide advice and support for children in care, have been called on to help many children who are in this situation.  

To get to the bottom of this issue, I will be collecting the education placement data from local authorities for their cohort of looked after children of statutory school age as of 31 March 2022. The data will show, for the first time, how many looked after children are: out of education entirely, receiving tuition at home, being electively home educated, in part-time unregistered alternative provision or being educated in an independent school.  

Evidence from my ‘Back Into School: new insights into school absence’ report showed that looked after children who were in school were actually less likely to experience absence than their non-looked after peers. This is testament to the success of the role of the Virtual School Head and demonstrates how we absolutely need to have high ambitions for the system that looks after children in care.  

Any looked after children or children with a child protection plan who are concerned about their education or are missing out on education can contact my Help at Hand team for advice and support.