Skip to content

Since starting as Children’s Commissioner, I have made it my mission to find England’s missing children and to put together a plan to get them back to school. Children who are regularly absent or missing education altogether are much more likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds or to be vulnerable. Schools play a vital role in keeping these children safe. 

As Children’s Commissioner, I have a statutory responsibility for looked after children. For these children, being in school and receiving an excellent education could not be more important. School forms a central part of the safety net supporting these children and can provide them with a sense of stability and trusted relationships they need but may not freely have.  

Earlier this year, I used my statutory data collection powers to ask every local authority about what education they provide for children in their care of compulsory school age. Our research found that most school-aged children in local authority care were being educated in a registered school, as they should be. That is due to the hard work and dedication of foster carers, social workers, and virtual schools across the country that support looked after children to attend school.  

However, our report also found that looked after children are over-represented among those missing from school: 2.7% of looked after children are not in school. In total, 1.3% were being educated in unregistered settings, 1.1% were not enrolled at any educational provision, and 0.3% were recorded as being registered at a school but with 0% attendance. 

To better understand the reasons for these children being out of school, we drew upon case studies from the Children’s Commissioner’s independent advocacy service, ‘Help at Hand’, and conversations with local authorities. We found that some of the main challenges centred around a lack of specialist places and a reluctance from mainstream schools to admit children with additional needs. 

We have a duty to ensure all children can access high-quality education, especially children in care. As schools return, I want to see every school outline their plans for attendance, with clear provisions for how they will support children with social workers.  

My office has put together resources for schools to support the back-to-school drive, with a specific focus on looked after children and children in kinship care. Looked after children who are struggling to access education, can also contact my office’s Help at Hand team who can also provide free support and advice.  

Children in care are every bit as ambitious for their futures as their peers. As adults, we must share this ambition and do everything we can to support them to achieve their hopes and dreams. That must start with ensuring no looked after child misses out on their education. 

Related News Articles