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OxfordshireSafeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual

Children Missing Education


  1. Definition
  2. Risks
  3. Process
  4. Protection and Action to be Taken
  5. Children Missing from Home
  6. Further Information

1. Definition

"Children missing from education" refers to all children of compulsory school age:

  • Who are not on a school roll or being educated otherwise (e.g. privately or in alternative provision); or
  • Who have been out of any educational provision for a substantial period of time (usually agreed as ten days), without an acceptable reason.

Each year children either fail to start in a new school or appropriate education provision or become lost from school rolls or fail to re-register at a new school when they move home.

2. Risks

These 'missing' children can be vulnerable; it is essential that all services work together to identify and re-engage these children back into appropriate education provision as quickly as possible. It is important to establish the reasons for the child being missing education at the earliest possible stage.

Possible reasons that should be considered include:

  • Failure to start appropriate provision and never enter the system;
  • Stopped attending, due to illegal exclusion or withdrawal by parent/carers;
  • Failure to complete a transition between schools.

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

A child missing from education is not in itself a child protection matter, and there may be an innocent explanation for this. However, regular school attendance is an important safeguard and unexplained non-attendance can be an early indicator of problems, risk and vulnerability.

Schools should endeavour to deal with this problem in three ways; by preventing poor school attendance and truancy; acting once absence occurred to establish children's safety and try to get them back to school; and taking action to trace children whose whereabouts were not known.

3. Process


If a child fails to attend school without explanation, the school should make all reasonable attempts to contact the family, including telephone calls and home visits. If these attempts are unsuccessful, school staff, in consultation with the Designated Safeguarding Lead, should consider what level of risk is presented by the situation. They should then make the appropriate referral to police or LCSS.

If contact is made with the family and it is confirmed that the family has left the address, a referral should be made to the Pupil Tracking Officer if no new educational provision is notified. The Pupil Tracking Officer will advise on whether it is appropriate to remove the child from roll. If the school has been informed that the child has started at a new school, contact should be made with that school to confirm that the child has started there.

If contact is made with the family and it becomes clear that they are still living at the same address but the child is not attending school, the school should follow its attendance procedure leading ultimately to a referral to the County Attendance Team.

In any event, the Head Teacher should inform the Pupil Tracking Officer of any child who has not attended for 10 consecutive schools days without provision of reasonable explanation.

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 Pupil Tracking Officer with any details they have of the child in question.

Pupil Tracking Officer

The Pupil Tracking Officer should ensure that reasonable enquiries are made - e.g. home visits, liaison with Children's Social Care Services and/or Housing - and notify the school if it appears that the child has moved out of the area.

4. Protection and Action to be Taken

Head teachers should inform the Pupil Tracking Officer and the child's social worker immediately a child subject to a Child Protection Plan is missing.

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.

In any case where a school seeks to remove a child from the register without new educational provision being confirmed, the school should seek advice from the Pupil Tracking Officer before removing the child from roll. Where a child on a school roll is missing, the child's name may not be removed from the school roll until s/he has been continuously absent for at least 4 weeks and both the school and the education service have failed, after reasonable enquiry, to locate the pupil and her/his family. The child's Common Transfer file should be uploaded to the Department for Education secure site (S2S) as a missing pupil file.

In these circumstances the child's name is kept on a centrally held register, and should be clearly identified as missing from education.

Where the child's name has been removed from the school roll, but s/he has not been located, the Head Teacher should arrange for the pupil's records to be retained until the child is located.

Where a Head Teacher has been notified by a parent that a pupil is receiving education other than at school, and has removed the child's name from the school roll, notification must be given to the education service immediately.

If a school receives a new pupil without receiving information about the pupil from his or her previous school, the school should contact the Pupil Tracking Officer.

If the Pupil Tracking Officer becomes aware the child has moved to another school s/he should ensure all relevant agencies are informed and arrangements made to forward records from the previous school.

5. Children Missing from Home

The above procedure concerns children who are missing from education. It does not concern children who go missing from home (although joint working may well apply) who should be reported to the police immediately.

As a result of daily registration, schools are particularly well placed to notice when a child has gone missing. If a member of school/educational establishment/college staff becomes aware that a child may have run away or gone missing, they should try to establish with the parents/ carers, what has happened. If this is not possible, or the child is missing, the designated safeguarding teacher/advisor should, together with the class teacher, assess the child's vulnerability.

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.