Children Missing Education: a Breakdown of the Stats

What’s been said?

Staffordshire has become the latest Local Authority to get involved in the Children Missing Education (CME) debacle. A recent survey has revealed that 39 students across their schools simply ‘disappeared’ during the final months of Year 11, ahead of GCSEs. 27 per cent of those were removed to home education – in one case, parents thought this would facilitate the provision of a tutor for their son, who was experiencing difficulty in school.

This article followed hot on the heels of a report from FFT Education Datalab, which conducted a comprehensive study into pupil movement with 55,000 students, tracking them from Years 7 through to 11. The report found that of that cohort, ‘8,700 pupils were in alternative provision or pupil referral units, nearly 2,500 had moved to special schools and 22,000 had left the state sector’ – a figure which was up on previous years by 20,000. Of those, 3,000 had moved to the independent sector and around 4,000 were registered to take their exams elsewhere. About 9,000 had left England, with the remaining number, around 7,000, unaccounted for. This is a little over 0.1% of the total school population – hardly the crisis which some would like to suggest.

Why does it matter?

It is this figure of 7,000 missing students that has provoked renewed attempts to control EHE and lay the blame for CME at the door of home education. This data is useful when arguing why that is unfair. Firstly, who knows where those 7,000 pupils went, or the reasons for them leaving the school system – that is an issue for the DfE to deal with. They have disappeared from schools, not from home. Schools have to notify the Local Authority of the intended destination of every pupil removed from a school roll. So why have Local Authorities not followed up these students? Instead, they have indulged in blame-shifting for two reasons – they see an opportunity to get control of EHE and in doing so hide their own failure to pursue missing students.

What can I do?

Use this data to demonstrate how the government is jumping on the bandwagon of anti-home education propaganda based on assumptions. It demonstrates that there is no crisis, and also that nobody has any idea where 7,000 pupils disappear to. The government can only be blaming EHE in an attempt to gain control of a group of parents who are simply exercising their legal right to discharge their duty.

Continue to press the question concerning the 4,000 students who are registered to take their exams elsewhere. Why did their parents remove them from the school system? Also ask why so many parents are removing their children from school during the critical GCSE years. No parent would willingly opt out of the school system to EHE for the first time during these years, so what circumstances are giving rise to this action?

Although there are still some myths that need busting over the issue of EHE and off-rolling, the tide is turning as reliable data becomes available. Keep repeating the fact that this is a problem for schools to solve and not one for which the EHE community can be blamed.