Office for Standards in Education (Ofsted)
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Local authorities are failing in their duties to children who are missing education

Too many children, often the most vulnerable, are either missing out on full-time education or not getting the part-time education they are entitled to, according to an Ofsted report published yesterday.

Pupils missing out on education finds that too many local authorities do not know how much education some pupils, such as excluded children and those with mental and physical health needs who do not attend school in the usual way receive.

The report finds that some local authorities are failing to properly arrange and monitor the effectiveness of education for children directly in their care. Only a third of the local authorities visited for the survey keep a close enough eye on these children and gather information and analyse it centrally.

Yesterday’s survey sets out stark findings about the failures of some local authorities to meet their statutory obligation to ensure that children and young people in their area are receiving a suitable education. Moreover, children and young people who only receive part-time education can become ‘invisible’ to local authorities. These children can become vulnerable or be involved in anti-social behaviour.

Inspectors found 1,400 children and young people in the 15 authorities visited who were being educated part-time. If this pattern were repeated across all local authorities in England, it would mean more than 10,000 children were missing out on full-time education.

Sir Michael Wilshaw, HM Chief Inspector of Ofsted said:

'As my Access and Achievement report highlighted in June, there can be no greater responsibility than to ensure our most vulnerable children have the best chance of a decent education. Today’s report focuses on pupils missing from full-time education who may become "invisible" to local authorities who have a duty to arrange suitable alternative education for them.

'It is simply not acceptable that only a third of local authorities have a detailed understanding of what is happening to pupils who are not receiving full-time education. Ofsted is shining a spotlight on these failings. Our new arrangements for inspecting children’s social care services, which starts this month, will request a specific report on school-age children who are not attending full-time education.

'Everyone must take greater responsibility for knowing where these children are. We owe it to them to ensure they are safe and can succeed.'

In every local authority there are children who do not, or cannot attend full-time education in the usual way. Many of these children are not on a school roll and are the responsibility of the local authority. These include those children who:

  • have been permanently excluded
  • are pregnant or are young mothers
  • have physical or mental health issues
  • have special educational needs.

The best local authorities ensure that no young person in their area slips out of sight. They are conscientious and determined in communicating with others, understanding that such responsibility does not stop at their local authority’s boundaries.

The report also finds that making a senior officer accountable for the delivery of education for those children and young people who do not attend school in the usual way is the best approach to ensuring they receive a good quality education.

In a number of cases, low expectations of what children and young people could achieve meant the education provided was of poor standard and limited value. For example, one young mother had stopped studying for her exams where she had been on track to do very well and, instead, was attending part-time provision for parenting skills.

This report makes a number of recommendations to local authorities and schools. It says they should:

  • establish a central record of children not accessing full-time education, including those who are accessing alternative provision full-time away from mainstream school
  • identify clear lines of accountability
  • share information across local authority boundaries and other agencies
  • ensure every child is on the school register, regardless of circumstances, unless parents and carers have decided to educate their children at home.

It also makes recommendations for schools saying they should:

  • stop unlawful exclusions
  • inform local authorities of any part-time education arrangements
  • respond quickly to any early signs of children and young people’s raised anxiety or dips in their progress, attendance or learning.

Notes to editors

1. For a copy of the full report please go to the Ofsted website.

2. The main groups of children and young people who are the focus of this report are those who:

  • have been permanently excluded
  • have particular social and behavioural difficulties and have personalised learning plans: this means that, by arrangement, they do not attend their usual school full time
  • have mental health needs and access Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), either as an in-patient or through services provided in the community
  • have medical needs other than mental health needs
  • rarely attend school and have personalised learning plans as part of attempts to re-integrate them into full-time education
  • are pregnant or are young mothers of compulsory school age
  • have complex needs and no suitable school place is available.

In addition, small numbers of children and young people do not currently attend school in the usual way because they:

  • are returning from custody and a school place has not been found for them
  • are new to the country and are awaiting a school place
  • are from a Gypsy, Roma or Traveller background and alternative provision has been made

3. For a copy of the Framework and evaluation schedule for the inspection of services for children in need of help and protection, looked after children and care leavers please follow this link: Social care inspection framework. This will give more information in relation to the new social care inspections especially in relation to local authorities. In brief, Ofsted will now be asking councils for the following:

  • the child’s unique ID, date of birth, Unique Pupil Numbers
  • type of educational provision being received, including home tuition
  • number of hours provision each week (in particular whether a child is receiving fewer or more than 25 hours)
  • if the child has been excluded, the type of exclusion
  • the date when alternative education provision outside school began.

4.  The Access and Achievement report is on the Ofsted website.

5. Media can contact the Ofsted Press Office through 03000 130415 or via Ofsted's enquiry line 0300 1231231 between 8.30am - 6.00pm Monday - Friday. Out of these hours, during evenings and weekends, the duty press officer can be reached on 07919 057359.

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