More than 10,000 children could be missing out on a full-time education according to new estimates from Ofsted.
A report this week claims that “too many” local authorities do not know how much education some of their most vulnerable young people are receiving.
Ofsted says that the types of pupils who often miss out on a full-time education include those who have been excluded, pregnant students or young mothers, and those with mental and physical health needs.
For its report – Pupils Missing Out On Education – inspectors visited 15 authorities and found that 1,400 children and young people were being educated part-time. If this pattern is repeated across the country, then Ofsted estimates it would amount to more than 10,000 children.
In around half of the cases followed up by inspectors, the young people were receiving just five to eight hours of educational provision a week.
Inspectors accuse some authorities of failing to properly “arrange and monitor the effectiveness of education for children directly in their care”.
The report finds that only a third of the 15 local authorities keep “a close enough eye” on these children, gathering and analysing information centrally.
It also criticises some schools for not sharing information well enough. The report reminds all schools that they have a responsibility to share information with the local authority about any student who is out of school for 15 days or more.
And while many schools had good systems for monitoring outcomes for some of these students, these were “less robust” when health services or home tuition were involved, inspectors said.
Ofsted is now calling for schools to establish clear accountability for the “achievement, safety and personal development” of students who are “not accessing school in the usual way”. It also wants all local authorities to establish a central record of children not accessing full-time education, including those accessing alternative provision.
Elsewhere, it says that every child should be on the school register, “regardless of circumstances” (unless they are being home-educated), and that schools must inform local authorities of any part-time education arrangements that are put in place.
Chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw said pupils missing out on a full-time education “may become invisible to local authorities”. He added: “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.
“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.”
The report can be downloaded from www.ofsted.gov.uk CAPTION: Missing out? Ofsted has warned that it is often the most vulnerable students, including pregnant teens or young mothers, who miss out on full-time education (Photo: Lucie Carlier)