Children missing education


Definition - Children missing education

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

As defined in the Section 436A of the Education Act 1996, CME are children of compulsory school age 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 collection

Data presented in this publication has been collected through the Elective Home Education and Children Missing Education data collections. 

Full guidance provided to local authorities, including census dates and data item definitions can be found at:

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 transparency data. The data collection is planned to continue on a termly basis during the 2022/23 and 2023/24 academic years. 

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 and 92% in the Spring 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. 

Help and support

Contact us

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

School Statistics Team

Contact name: Sean Gibson

Press office

If you have a media enquiry:

Telephone: 020 7783 8300

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

Telephone: 037 0000 2288

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