This week I co-chaired a roundtable with the Minister of State for Schools where we were joined by representatives from leading local authorities and Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) who are all working to identify children missing from education (CME) and get them back into education.
Every child has a right to an education and yet every day there are thousands of children around the country who are not able to access this right and who go without any kind of formal education. Data from the Local Government Association suggests that before the pandemic in 2018/19 there were more than 250,000 children missing from education. My own research from last year found that it is simply not possible to accurately identify the number of missing children due to a lack of data. Local authorities in England have a statutory responsibility to identify children who are missing from education and to support children not receiving a suitable education back into full-time education either at a school or through alternative provision. However, no local authority is able to identify all missing children and there is a huge variation in approach across the country.
That’s why I was so pleased to be joined by local authorities who are really leading in this space by setting identifying CME as a strategic priority and making the best possible use of data, bringing information together from multiple sources, to identify these vulnerable children. It was heartening to hear from them how attendance is everyone’s business and so is the issue of CME. I agree that the road to seeing all children engaged in education involves better information sharing, supported by the introduction of a consistent child identifier across data sources alongside sharing best practice.
Of course, it is not enough to just identify CME, we must also have the facility to get them back into education. The MAT leaders shared examples of how this can be done, for example The Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT) ‘A Champion for Every Child’ (ACE) programme links vulnerable children with a tutor who works with them 1-2-1 to provide support.
The roundtable was followed by the first meeting of the Attendance Action Alliance of the new year where all members pledged work to address the issues of CME. I will be investigating children’s journey’s out of education and what they have found works to support them back into suitable education. This project will prioritise listening to the voices and experiences of children so that their views are at the heart of solutions.
Whilst the road to no more children missing education may be complex to navigate at times, I firmly believe that we can reach the end – where all children are able to access their right to an education.