More than a million young people in England could be missing full-time education

A large proportion of children in England could be missing formal full-time education, the Local Government Association (LGA) says.

The LGA has warned that more than a million young people in England could be missing full-time education due to significant gaps in education legislation, rising child support needs and a lack of funding.

A new report released this week says that the safety net that schools and councils provide to ensure that children do not miss out on their entitlement to education is ‘stretched to capacity’.

It adds that this is being exacerbated by a lack of resources and powers available to councils to fulfil their statutory duties and risks getting worse as a result of the pandemic.

The report says that some councils have reported increases in home education registrations of more than 200 per cent for September and October, compared to the same period last year. It says this has been fuelled by parents choosing to home school their children because of safety fears and increasing numbers of pupils having to stay out of school to self-isolate.

The LGA has warned that this is leading to increasing numbers of children receiving unsuitable education outside the classroom and missing out on the benefits that a school environment brings, such as safeguarding and learning and socialising with other children.

It is calling for schools to be forced to share attendance registers with councils – which is currently only voluntary – and for local authorities to have the tools and flexibilities to check a child’s home schooling, and make sure they aren’t being taught in unsuitable or dangerous environments.

The LGA’s report, Children Missing in Education, says that gaps in the coordination of policies and guidance around pupil registration, attendance, admissions, exclusions and non-school education is allowing children to slip through the net, with children with additional vulnerabilities – such as social, behavioural, medical or mental health needs - most at risk of doing so.

This is not only putting them at risk of slower progress in learning and poorer job prospects, but is also likely to lead to poorer mental health and emotional wellbeing, restricted social and emotional development and increased vulnerability to safeguarding issues, such as domestic abuse, grooming and criminal exploitation, such as county lines drug activities.

Cllr Judith Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “The rising numbers of children not in education is hugely concerning, but is hard to tackle due a lack of council powers and resources, and flaws in an education framework ill-suited to an inclusive agenda.

“While parents, councils and schools all have responsibilities to ensure that children receive suitable education, some significant gaps in legislation mean that it is possible for children to slip through the net and be exposed to serious risks by not being in full-time education.

“The pandemic is only likely to increase these risks and add to the significant lifetime costs to the public purse of a young person not in education, employment or training.”

You can read the full report at https://local.gov.uk/children-missing-education

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