Headlines: August 17th, 2010

Local authorities do not feel confident that they know all the children living in their area so they can fulfil their duties to keep them safe. The concerns are raised in the latest survey from Ofsted, which highlights the challenges councils face in identifying and tracking children who are missing from education.

The study, published today, says children missing from education, and whose whereabouts are not known not only risk academic failure but are potentially vulnerable to physical, emotional and psychological harm. Ofsted surveyed 15 English local authorities of varying sizes in both urban and rural areas. None of them felt confident it knew about all the children in its area.

The report says some children are missing from education because schools are not fully aware of policies and procedures for informing councils. Even when these are understood, some schools do not comply with the guidelines. The transient nature of some families and difficulty for councils in exchanging information about children moving between areas also means they can go missing.

In spite of these difficulties, Ofsted says all the councils worked to forge links with others such as health professionals but the extent and effectiveness of the exchange of information varied from one authority to another.

Ofsted’s Director for Education and Care, Patrick Leeson said councils and their partners needed to share information effectively and more systematically. “It is of serious concern that some schools are not following agreed procedures and legal requirements for notifying their local authorities when pupils are excluded or taken off the roll,” he added.