Are you up to speed with the new rules on children missing in education?

Mark Raeburn, managing director of Capita One, looks at the impact of the changes introduced to cut the number of children missing from education.

With the academic year now well underway, school leaders across the UK have been putting measures in place to respond to a new set of government guidance released to tighten the rules on tracking children missing from education.

Published over the summer, the new rules, which apply to all schools, are designed to improve information sharing and will see local authorities working more closely than ever with heads to monitor the whereabouts of pupils moving from school to school and prevent vulnerable children from falling under the radar.

As part of this, there are some additional pieces of information that local authorities will now need to gather from schools when pupils of compulsory school-age leave before completing the final year.

What has changed?

As the new rules specify, schools will now be required to:

  • Record details of the relevant pupil's residence, the name of the person with whom they expect to reside, the date from which they will reside there and the name of the destination school;
  • Inform the local authority of the pupil's destination school and home address if the pupil is moving to a new school; and
  • Provide information to their local authority within five days of registering a new pupil, including the child's address and previous school (where they can reasonably obtain this information).

Importantly, local authorities can request this extra information from schools for standard transitions too, such as when pupils move from primary to secondary schools, to help cut the number of children at risk of going missing from education at these points.

Schools have not necessarily been required to record and share information in this detail previously, so what can local authorities do to make it easier for schools to continue to play their part in safeguarding vulnerable children? Technology can help.

The importance of data sharing

Mark Raeburn, CapitaSome local authorities have access to a management information system (MIS) that enables staff to ensure electronic data on children coming off the school roll, for whatever reason, can be transferred automatically from school to local authority. Being able to set the system up to transfer data at set times - such as weekly or fortnightly, for example - can be an efficient way to keep track of who is going where too.

Ensuring that the latest information on children who might be at risk of going missing is available to the different teams that need it is key to keeping them safe. So it might be prudent to help ensure that all schools in your area are recording and sharing important data on pupils coming off the school roll in the same way.

Tracking 'at risk' groups

The challenge for all those working with children and families is that sometimes complex circumstances can result in a child going missing from school unexpectedly.

This might be because the relationship between a young person and their family has broken down or a crisis situation has led to a parent leaving the family home suddenly. Despite the best efforts of all concerned, there are times when it may not always be possible to immediately ascertain the whereabouts of a child who has stopped coming to school.

But sharing details of children missing in education regularly with the different practitioners they could potentially come into contact with, such as housing, benefits or drug and alcohol support teams, for example, could keep them safe.

If a child on the missing list turns up at a hospital or youth service, an automatic notification could be sent back to the relevant team within the local authority so that they can take action and provide any support needed to get the child back in to school.

Effective safeguarding

Keeping track of children and young people as they move through each stage of their education is essential to keeping them safe and ensuring they're given the best possible life chances.

By ensuring the latest information on children can be shared quickly and easily across children's services, both local authorities and schools can work more effectively together to prevent the most vulnerable from falling through the cracks.