Academic year 2022/23

Children missing education

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See all updates (2) for Academic year 2022/23
  1. Summer term data added to release

  2. Broken link corrected

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Introduction

This publication provides data reported by local authorities on children missing education (CME) (opens in a new tab) in England. 

As defined in the Section 436A of the Education Act 1996, CME are children of compulsory school age (opens in a new tab) who are not registered pupils at a school and are not receiving suitable education otherwise than at a school.  

This includes children who are awaiting a school place and children in receipt of unsuitable education, including those children local authorities are supporting to place into suitable education.  

An elective home educated (EHE) child whose education is deemed unsuitable should be classified as CME. A separate ad-hoc release has been published relating to EHE

Data is presented for both the number of CME at a point in time on the Autumn term 2022, Spring term 2023 and Summer term 2023 census days, and the number of CME at any point during the 2021/22 academic year. Where a child was missing education more than once during the 2021/22 academic year, they are only recorded once. 

Data was collected from local authorities on a voluntary basis for the first time in Autumn 2022. The Department for Education (DfE) recognises the operational importance of publishing this data in a timely manner and so is publishing this information as ad hoc statistics. Figures from 2023/24 will be published as official statistics. 


Headline facts and figures - 2022/23

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Data Quality

Local authorities have a duty under section 436A of the Education Act 1996 to make arrangements to establish the identities of children in their area who are not registered pupils at a school and are not receiving suitable education otherwise. Discussions with local authorities suggest that the data is an accurate reflection of the number children they have identified but there is some variation in practice, including around when a child should be recorded as CME. This means that whilst the data is an accurate reflection of the number of CME on record within local authorities, it may not represent a consistently defined estimate of all CME across the country.  

The following considerations should be noted when using this data: 

  • Data was received from 90% of local authorities in the Autumn term, 92% in the Spring term and 96% in the Summer term. To account for non-response, national figures have been uprated based on local authority pupil populations.  
  • Response rates varied across data items; this includes where more detailed breakdowns are not readily available 
  • As part of the data quality assurance process, DfE has carried out detailed discussions with local authorities to understand trends in the data. We have learnt that there are three broad reasons driving variation in CME figures between local authorities: 
    • LA characteristics and circumstances. For example, some local authorities recorded high levels of CME due to families arriving from Ukraine and Afghanistan, and their children applying for school places. 
    • Varying CME identification and support practices. For example, some local authorities never close a CME case unless it is confirmed a child is enrolled at school, whereas others close a case once the child has been identified in another local authority or country.  
    • Different working definitions of CME. For example, local authorities report variation in the point at which an EHE child receiving unsuitable education is classified as CME and whether their CME figures include children awaiting a school place and/or children on a school roll for whom CME enquiries are being carried out. 

As this is a new data collection, we expect the quality of the data returns to improve over time as the collection becomes established. For example, reductions in the number of unknown values for detailed breakdowns and increased response rates. 

Children missing education on census days

Local authorities have a duty under section 436A of the Education Act 1996 to make arrangements to establish the identities of children in their area who are not registered pupils at a school and are not receiving suitable education.  

This data collection (along with that on EHE children) has been developed to: 

  • build a clearer picture of the EHE and CME cohorts at local and national levels, 
  • help the Department for Education identify outlying local data and work with those local authorities to understand the reasons, and 
  • help the Department to understand the drivers of EHE and CME. 

Local authorities reported an estimated 24,700 children missing education on census day in Autumn 2022. This includes adjustments made for non-response and is based on a figure of 23,200 reported by 90% of local authorities. 

On census day in Spring 2023 local authorities reported an estimated 24,700 children missing education. This includes adjustments made for non-response and is based on a figure of 23,100 reported by 92% of local authorities. 

On census day in Summer 2023 local authorities reported an estimated 28,100 children missing education. This includes adjustments made for non-response and is based on a figure of 27,200 reported by 96% of local authorities. 

There are no other comparable data sources on the number of CME in England. Without comparable data it is difficult to assess the accuracy of these figures but known data issues, including variations in CME numbers across local authorities, may impact the quality of these estimates (see ‘Data Quality’ section).  

The proportion of children missing education varies by characteristics. The figures below relate to Autumn 2022 but trends in Spring and Summer 2023 were broadly similar. 

  • Sex - 46% of CME were reported as female and 51% of CME were reported as male (the rest were unknown). This compares to 49% of the overall school population as female and 51% male.
  • Year group – The number of CME was stable throughout primary school ages with around 7-8% of CME in each year group, increasing to 10-11% in secondary.
  • 18% of CME were White British and 34% from ethnicity minority backgrounds. The remaining 48% had refused to provide their ethnicity or were unknown.
  • 7% of CME had an additional requirement of SEN support, while 5% of CME had an education, health and care plan. This compares with 13% and 4% respectively for the overall school population.
  • 2% of CME were recorded as a child in need, while 1% were recorded as having a child protection plan and 1% were a looked after child. This compares with 3% children in need, 0.4% having a child protection plan and 0.7% looked after children amongst the overall child population.

SEN provision and in need status was as known to the LA as at the census day and therefore may exclude children who previously held these additional requirements and those for whom these requirements were not known. 

Children missing education – at any point during the academic year 2021/22

Data was also collected on the number of children reported by local authorities as missing education at any point during the 2021/22 academic year. Where a child was missing education more than once, they are only recorded once. These are cumulative counts of all pupils reported by local authorities as CME at some point in the academic year and are not directly comparable to the point in time figures presented as at census day in Autumn 2022 and Spring 2023. 

Local authorities identified an estimated 94,900 children missing education, that is not registered at school or otherwise receiving suitable education, at some point during the 2021/22 academic year. This includes adjustments made for non-response and is based on a figure of 83,600 reported by 86% of local authorities. Where a child was identified as having multiple spells of missing education, this child should only have been counted once by the LA.  

Help and support

Methodology

Find out how and why we collect, process and publish these statistics.

Ad hoc official statistics

Ad hoc official statistics are one off publications that have been produced as far as possible in line with the Code of Practice for Statistics.

This can be broadly interpreted to mean that these statistics are:

  • managed impartially and objectively in the public interest
  • meet identified user needs
  • produced according to sound methods
  • well explained and readily accessible

Find out more about the standards we follow to produce these statistics through our Standards for official statistics published by DfE guidance.

Contact us

If you have a specific enquiry about Children missing education statistics and data:

School Statistics Team

Email: school.statistics@education.gov.uk
Contact name: Pauline Potts

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone: 020 7783 8300

Public enquiries

If you have a general enquiry about the Department for Education (DfE) or education:

Telephone: 037 0000 2288

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