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6.3 Children Missing from Education

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This chapter contains information for professionals who become aware of children who are not on a school roll or being educated otherwise or have been out of any educational provision for a substantial period of time. It reflects the 2015 Statutory Guidance for local authorities on Children Missing Education.

This chapter was added to the manual in October 2015.


1. Definition - What do we mean by Children Missing from Education?

“Children missing education are defined as children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll, and who are not receiving a suitable education elsewhere: for example, at home, privately, or in alternative provision. They fall into two broad categories.

Those whose whereabouts and circumstances are known to the Local Authority but who have, for whatever reason, been out of education for 20 school days or more.

Those whose whereabouts and circumstances are unknown to the Local Authority.

Children and young people who are missing education may also be at risk of becoming missing more generally from home or from care.

Local Authorities have a duty (Education and Inspections Act 2006) to make arrangements to establish (so far as it is possible to do so) the identities of children in their area who are of compulsory school age and not receiving a suitable education. To fulfil the duty to provide an education for all children of compulsory school age the Local Authority will take all reasonable steps to:

  • Track children and young people missing from education;
  • Identify those at risk of becoming missing from education;
  • Ensure a range of effective preventative interventions are in place;
  • Maintain contact with those missing, or at risk of missing, education.

Statutory guidance for local authorities: children missing education



2. Risks - Who is at Greatest Risk and Why?

Children fall out of the education system because they:

  • Fail to start appropriate provision and therefore never enter the system;
  • Cease to attend due to exclusion (e.g. unofficial exclusions) or withdrawal;
  • Fail to make the transition between schools within or across the Local Authority area.

And where there is no systematic process in place to:

  • Identify those children;
  • Ensure that they re-engage with appropriate provision in a timely way.

Research shows that the following are particularly at risk:

  • Young people who have committed offences;
  • Children living in women’s refuges;
  • Children of homeless families and/or living in temporary accommodation;
  • Young runaways;
  • Children with long term medical or emotional problems;
  • Children affected by substance misuse;
  • Unaccompanied asylum seekers;
  • Children of refugees and asylum seeking families;
  • Children in new immigrant families without a fixed UK address;
  • Children who have been trafficked to or within the UK;
  • Children in care;
  • Children who are privately fostered;
  • Young carers;
  • Teenage mothers;
  • Children who are permanently excluded from school;
  • Children who are unofficially excluded from school.

Children who remain disengaged from education are potentially exposed to higher degrees of risk such as anti-social behaviour and/or exploitation.

Families moving between local authority areas can sometimes lead to a child becoming ‘lost’ in the system and consequently missing education. Where a child has moved, local authorities should check with other local authorities – either regionally or nationally – and share information in order to ascertain where a child has moved. Once the location of the child is established, the relevant local authority must ensure that the child is receiving an education either by attending a school or otherwise.


3. Indicators


Anyone who comes into contact with children and their families has a role to play in safeguarding children as described in statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018. Local Authorities have a duty to take all reasonable steps to identify and track children missing from education.

All schools should be aware of their responsibilities regarding placing and removing children’s names from a school roll and the marking of attendance registers. If a child who is currently on the school’s roll fails to attend without reasonable explanation or contact from home, or a child who is expected to join a school fails to start, the relevant school staff should undertake an initial investigation. If this investigation fails to resolve these issues the school should inform the Local Authority. The Local Authority recommends that this initial investigation should be completed in 10 days or less.

Children should remain on the school roll until all the actions set out in this guidance note have been completed and they have been informed in writing to remove the child’s details from roll. Following initial investigation by the school the Local Authority will aim to complete subsequent enquiries within 10 days.

The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006) states that a school may only remove a child from their roll when a pupil:

  • Registers at another school;
  • Is withdrawn to be educated outside the school system;
  • Has been permanently excluded;
  • Fails to return after an extended family holiday*;
  • Has a medical condition prevents their return to the school;
  • Will be in custody for more than four months;
  • Has left the school but it is not known where they have gone*;
  • Has another school named on a school attendance order;
  • Is above compulsory school age;
  • Dies.

* Following efforts by both the school and the Local Authority to locate the pupil.

Schools have very limited discretion to grant authorised periods of absence. Each application is considered individually by the school within the context of the national regulations.

Schools must alert parents to the legal position and the actions they may take if the child fails to return from an authorised period of absence by the agreed date. In the event that a school grants an extended period of absence, if the child fails to return by the agreed date and the school makes reasonable enquiries to establish why, the school should report the child as missing education.

Other Agencies

Where any agency in contact with children and families believes that a child is not on the roll of a school or receiving education otherwise, then this information should be passed to the local authority.Click here for children missing education guidance and referral form

4. Protection and Action to be Taken

The Local Authority has a clear process for when a child is missing from education. The first stage is the responsibility of the school, the second the Local Authority.

Stage 1

The school should undertake reasonable actions to identify the whereabouts of the child. This includes telephoning all contact numbers, making enquiries with friends and family, making enquiries with schools attended by any siblings and wherever possible undertaking a visit to the home address. The form found at the end of this document should be used to record these actions as they are worked through. This investigation should occur within 10 days of the child going missing.

Stage 2

If the first stage does not identify the whereabouts of the child then a member of the Setting and School Sufficiency and Access team will complete a wider database check. If the location of the child is identified then the school will be informed and if necessary the parents or carers will be supported by the Local Authority to apply for a school place closer to the new home address. If there are any safeguarding concerns a referral to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub will be made by the Head of Delivery - Setting and School Sufficiency and Access using the appropriate form. If the child is found at this stage then the staff member will contact the school to advise that the child can be removed from roll.

However, if no trace can be made then a referral to the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub will be made by the Head of Delivery - Setting and School Sufficiency and Access who will then advise the school (in writing) to remove the pupil from roll and upload the Common Transfer Form (CTF) on S2S. The ONE database (the pupil database system the Local Authority uses) will also be updated by a member of the Setting and School Sufficiency and Access team.

Working with schools, the Local Authority aims to complete the two-stage search process in no more than 20 school days.

Common Transfer Files

If a school knows which school a child is moving to they should ensure that the Common Transfer File (CTF) is sent to the receiving school using S2S as quickly as possible. S2S is the Department for Education school to school website, which is a secure method of transferring pupil or other sensitive data between schools, Local Authorities and the Department for Education. It has been a statutory duty since 2002 for schools to upload a CTF file via the S2S website every time a pupil leaves a school. Receiving schools are then notified that a file is waiting for them to download. The website must also be used to post CTF files for children missing in education and for those leaving mainstream education.

If the new school is unknown, the CTF should be loaded as ‘missing’ onto S2S in the normal way. These records are then stored in a secure area of S2S known as the Lost Pupil Database.

Head teachers should inform the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub and the child’s social worker immediately if a missing child is subject to a Child Protection Plan.

In the following circumstances a referral to Children’s Social Care and /or the police should always be made promptly:

  • The child may be the victim of a crime;
  • The child is subject of a Child Protection plan;
  • The child is subject of s47 enquiries;
  • The child is looked after;
  • There is a known person posing a risk to children in the household or in contact with the household;
  • There is a history of the family moving frequently;
  • There are serious issues of attendance.

5. Issues

Anyone who comes into contact with children and their families has a role to play in safeguarding children as described in statutory guidance Working Together to Safeguard Children 2018. Local Authorities have a duty to take all reasonable steps to identify and track children missing from education. 

6. Further Information

This guidance should be read in the context of the statutory duties upon local authorities and parents as set out in the following:

In particular the guidance provides for professionals seeking to exercise their duty under the following Acts to ensure that their functions are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

Additionally, this guidance seeks to ensure that the duty to co-operate to improve the well-being of children under section 10 of the Children Act 2004[32] is discharged. All schools will have a designated teacher for looked after children. These teachers are ideally placed to assist when identifying those looked after children currently in school who may be at greater risk of going missing from education.

See also Children Missing Education (MK Council).

This page is correct as printed on Friday 27th of May 2022 01:46:07 AM please refer back to this website ( for updates.