The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) carried out this research to voice the experiences of children missing out on an education. A Freedom of Information request by the BBC found that 33,262 children were recorded as missing education in the academic year 2014-15. This is based on the narrow statutory definition of children missing education, but our research suggests the real number of children who are not being educated may be significantly higher. The Government does not collect national-level data, meaning the scale of the problem is unknown.
Children have the right to education under English law, which is underpinned by the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, in practice, various groups of children cannot exercise this right. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recently noted that certain children are particularly vulnerable to exclusions (including illegal exclusions), such as some ethnic minorities, children living in poverty, and children with disabilities, including psycho-social disabilities and other special educational needs.
Other children have not been excluded, but are missing education for other reasons, which are discussed in detail below. All children missing education are vulnerable. It is widely accepted that they are likely to under-achieve academically, and evidence suggests they may also be at greater risk of abuse, exploitation and neglect than their peers. We therefore need a better understanding of which children are missing education, why, and how they can be best supported to return.