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Children missing education – roles and responsibilities


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This document should be read in conjunction with the Devon Children and Families Partnership information on missing children.

Part 1 (Clause 4) of the Education and Inspections Act 2006 introduced a statutory duty on local authorities to make arrangements to establish the identities of children missing education (CME).

Section 436A of the Education Act, 2002 requires all local authorities to make arrangements to enable them to establish (as far as possible) the identities of children residing in their area who are not receiving a suitable education. In relation to children, by ‘suitable education’ we mean efficient full-time education suitable to his/her age, ability and aptitude and to any special educational needs the child may have [Section 7 Education Act 1996].

This applies to children of compulsory school age who are not on a school roll, and who are not receiving a suitable education otherwise than being at school, for example, at home, privately, or in alternative provision. In this document children in these groups are referred to as children missing education (CME). Children who are on roll at a school but not attending are within this document referred to as pupils missing education (PME).

The main focus of this document is on CME in Devon and the work should be seen within the context of the wider remit of the Local Authority to safeguard and promote the welfare of all children living within Devon.

All professionals working with children have a legal duty to safeguard children but the wider community can help by remaining vigilant to children’s safety.

The law states every child of compulsory school age should be receiving a suitable education. The Local Authority has a better chance of ensuring this, and a child’s safety if we know where and how they are receiving this.

The Education Act 2002 requires the Local Authority to undertake all functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in its area.

Children identified as not receiving an education, or whose whereabouts is unknown should be reported to:

Children Missing Education Team
Tel: 01392 287230

If you have a serious concern about the safety of a child you should contact the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH).

Address: Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub, P.O Box 723, Exeter, EX1 9QS.
Telephone: 0345 155 1071
Emergency Duty Team (out of hours): 0845 6000 388
Police – non-emergency: 101

Who is a child missing from education?

In Devon a child of statutory school age is considered to be CME when he or she meets the following criteria:

  • Not registered at an educational provision, for example, school.
  • Not registered as elective home education or educated other than at school.
  • It is not known how the child is receiving a suitable education.
  • If children who are on roll of a school stop attending or their whereabouts is unknown or both these children are called pupils missing education (PME). These children should be referred to the Education Welfare Service and schools are expected to undertake initial enquiries to locate the pupils.

This guidance provides schools with procedures taken by Devon County Council (DCC) to safeguard children who are CME.

There is a fundamental principle that all officers of DCC and partners have a responsibility to report children missing education.

If anybody is aware of any child or young person who does not appear to be accessing education they should make a referral to the CME Team.

This may result in referrals being made for children and young people already known and on a school roll. However, given the concerns around safeguarding and welfare, it is more beneficial to make a referral rather than DCC not receiving any notification.

Colleagues in all agencies, who become aware of a child who is not on a roll at a school but living in Devon, should notify the CME Team using the relevant Child Missing Education Referral form.

Identifying children who are at most risk of becoming a CME

There are complex reasons why children become missing from education. These may include children:

  • that are victims of child exploitation
  • that are young offenders
  • of families who can be highly mobile e.g. Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families
  • from Armed Forces families
  • of refugees and asylum-seeking families
  • of new immigrant families
  • of migrant worker families (who may not be familiar with the education system)
  • at risk of ‘honour’-based violence including forced marriage or female genital mutilation
  • at risk of modern slavery
  • from families fleeing domestic violence
  • living in Women’s Refuges
  • that are young runaways
  • of families living in temporary accommodation
  • whose parents take them abroad for a prolonged period
  • who do not receive a suitable education whilst being “home educated”
  • of parents with mental health problems or learning difficulties
  • with long-term mental health, medical or emotional problems
  • affected by substance and/or alcohol misuse
  • with a history of poor school attendance
  • that have difficulties at home
  • that have a history of abuse or neglect
  • that have learning difficulties or a disability
  • that are young carers
  • on the point of permanent exclusion from school who leave or are persuaded to seek a fresh start in another school
  • on alternative curriculum arrangements which are not monitored effectively
  • with SEN placements that are not completed due to one or more parties not complying with arrangements or able to meet needs
  • from families with poor literacy skills or with EAL needs that find accessing information difficult

Roles and responsibilities

(a) Schools

Children who have a history of poor school attendance or high rates of exclusion or both are at greater risk of becoming CME.

Therefore, schools need to ensure that they have a robust process for early identification of potential attendance issues.

Measures should be put in place to address these issues as soon as possible, following school policy.

When a pupil does not join a school as expected

When a pupil is expected to join the school, either at a normal time of starting (for example, nursery, reception or year 7) or at any other time, and he or she does not arrive, the school must first try to make contact with the parents by phone or letter.

If, after five school days, no contact has been made, the school must inform Devon County Council’s Admissions Department to find out if the pupil has been registered elsewhere.

If the pupil has not been registered elsewhere, the school must complete the destination field in SIMS (if the destination is unknown complete using XXX XXXX) and complete the Children missing education referral form (CME1).

The pupil can be removed from the admission register after 20 days when the school and CME officer have failed after jointly making reasonable enquiries to establish the whereabouts of the child.

It is important to note that regulations require that the Local Authority is informed before the child is removed from the school roll.

When a pupil stops attending the school

If a pupil has an unexplained absence from school for a prolonged period or fails to return from a holiday the school must follow the normal procedures for investigating pupil absence (such as telephone calls, letters, invitations to meetings at the school and if appropriate, a home visit).

If, after two weeks, the pupil does not return to school and contact from the parent has not been made, the school should inform the ONE data team using the destination field on SIMS and completing the CME Referral Form.

If the parents are in contact with the school and have not removed the child from the school roll the normal attendance routes must be followed.

When a school believes a child has left the school mid-phase, a School Leaver’s Form (SL1) should be completed by the school and sent to the ONE data team without delay.

The pupil can be removed from the admission register only in circumstances that comply with Regulation 8 of the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 and after notifying the Local Authority.

If a pupil ‘disappears’ without any warning the school must immediately notify the CME Team by calling 01392 287230 and if there are safeguarding concerns the police on 101 and MASH.

When a pupil moves abroad, where possible, the school should seek confirmation of the family’s new address and school details. The school should then endeavour to establish that the pupil is on roll of the new school.

In cases where there are safeguarding concerns, schools should consult MASH or the police or both.

Flexi schooling – please see EHE section below.

‘Guest’ pupils

The Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006 requires every school to keep an admissions and attendance register for all of their pupils.

The law does not allow for ‘guest’ pupils and all pupils must be entered on the attendance and the admissions register.

If pupils are educated at more than one school, they must be on the admissions and attendance register of each school.

The only exception is children who are visiting the school on a ‘one-off’ basis such as one-day seminars and visits before transferring to the school.

(b) Children Missing Education Team

The role of the CME officer is to co-ordinate the identification, tracking and monitoring of children who appear to be missing from education.

When a child is referred to the CME Team (by a school, other agency or an individual) as being at risk of missing education, the case will be investigated until either the child is back in school or it is confirmed that the child is without a school place.

Regular reporting is also made to the CME Panel.

(c) Education welfare

Education welfare officers will report any young person to the CME Team if they are unsure as to whether the child has access to a suitable educational provision.

(d) Ethnic Minority and Traveller Achievement Service (EMTAS)

EMTAS supports the inclusion and achievement of children and young people from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) and Traveller heritages, as well as those learning English as an additional language (EAL).

Children in these groups are particularly at risk of becoming CME and officers working within these services will have regard to established protocols relating to CME.

(e) Elective home education (EHE)

When parents decide to home educate, schools should inform the Elective Home Education Team prior to removal form roll. Schools must provide a copy of the parent’s letter, completed School Exit form and EHE Safeguarding form. The school should also notify any other relevant agencies.

Schools must never suggest or encourage parents to withdraw their children to become EHE. Advice is available to schools on the EHE web pages.

Flexi schooling can be agreed at the discretion of the school, although there is no obligation to do so. If a flexi-schooling arrangement is agreed this will involve a child who is primarily home-educated being placed on a school roll and attending for pre-identified lessons or sessions.

All half-day sessions when the child is not expected to attend must be recorded as an authorised absence.

Should a school consent to a flexi school arrangement then there is an expectation on the school that any concerns pertaining to the EHE element of the child’s education will be passed to the Devon EHE team.

If the child has an EHCP, the SEN 0-25 Team must also be informed. Children cannot be removed from the roll of special schools for EHE without the agreement of the SEN 0-25 Team.

(f) Children Missing Education Panel

This group of senior officers from the LA and its key partners meet each week in term time to discuss ‘stuck’ cases of children not on a school roll.

They act together to move those children back into education as swiftly as possible when this is appropriate.

The CME list is cross-referenced against CareFirst and the MACE referral list.


(g) Children's Services

Children and young people living away from home in foster care, children’s homes or residential schools are at particular risk. Children in care are three times more likely to go missing from their home than children who are not in care, although the reasons for this are complex and not yet fully understood.

Children’s Services will abide by the Children and Young People Missing Policy and Guidance which applies to all children and young people (up to the age of eighteen) who go missing or run away regardless of their living situation.

This policy has been agreed by the Devon Safeguarding Children Board, and applies to all representative agencies, whether of a statutory or non-statutory nature.

The key principles are:

  • prevention – reducing the number of children who go missing
  • protection – reducing the risk of harm to those who go missing
  • provision – providing missing children and their families with support and guidance
  • practice  – ensuring cross-agency consistency of practice; being child-centred, assessing and reviewing risk, to work towards the safe return of children and young people

Agencies will work with parents and carers to locate the missing child or young person. The following steps will be undertaken:

  1.  If the child is deemed to be vulnerable and has a social worker or social work family practitioner involved, they should inform the child’s school, educational setting, or EHE officer.
  2. Where appropriate, the professional involved with a missing child should agree with the parents regarding informing the child’s school or educational setting of his or her absence at the earliest opportunity.
  3. When a child or young person returns (including voluntarily or independently of the police), the named worker or carer should inform staff at the child’s school or education setting if they have been informed of the child being missing.
  4. Any child or young person missing from home which causes particular concern to the police or the parents or carers or both should be referred to the MASH for consideration of an initial assessment. Children’s Social Work will inform the parents or carers and the police of the outcome of any referral and assessment.

(h) Admissions

Parents need to formally apply if admission into school is required. If the child is or was formerly in care they will be supported by a lead officer working with social workers and the virtual school. They should contact for advice and support.

A form can be sent by the Admissions Team or the Customer Care Centre though in most cases, applications are submitted online.

Once they are received, applications will be processed by Admissions who will liaise with schools. An offer will always be made for a child who does not have a place in a state-funded school, though this will not necessarily be at the school preferred by the parent.

There is provision under a Fair Access protocol to place children in schools that would otherwise be full. This applies to certain children who meet eligibility criteria. Children in care may also be provided with places at schools that would otherwise be full.

Once the offer is made:

  • Where a child is new to Devon, wishes to enter school from being electively home educated or has moved from out of the catchment area and has no school place, a date of up to two weeks ahead is given, as agreed with the named school
  • Where a child is on roll at another Devon school, but does not meet the above criteria – a place will be offered for the start of the next term, or half term. This child would not be classed as CME as still on roll of a school.
  • All actions will be entered on ONE, including the name of the previous school as ‘base’.
    A report has been created from ONE to show students whose base has not changed, such as they have not been placed on roll. This report will be run every Monday by an admissions assistant.
  • The report is assessed by senior admissions officers and any cases of concern are chased up with schools by the admissions assistant.
  • Where there is no known reason for delay, for example, house move, or the offer is declined and the parent cannot be contacted, cases will be passed to the CME Team. This may initially be a compliance issue.
  • Where the delay is genuine, dates can be re-set and the student’s name will re-appear on the next report if the deadline has passed.

(i) Inclusion officers and education wellbeing advisers

The inclusion officers and education wellbeing advisers deal with a range of children within the statutory school age range, at risk of exclusion or not attending school because of medical needs. Their role is:

  • prevention – keep the child in the school system
  • to ensure interim education is in place whilst a permanent placement is identified
  • to identify and support children who because of health needs are unable to attend school for 15 or more school days per academic year
  • to work with parents to support their children to access learning
  • to support schools and other agencies with vulnerable children and children missing education offering advice, guidance and interventions
  • act as LA link with partners
  • to work collaboratively with other agencies, both statutory and non-statutory

(j) SEN 0-25 Team

The team ensures all children with an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP) who are due to transfer schools (whether in year or phase transfer) arrive at their destination school by way of email confirmation from the school.

This will be done by the end of the third week of September for phase transfers. For mid-year transfers, schools are emailed to check child is attending from the date of the agreed transfer.

If no placement is confirmed within 2 weeks, the CME Team is alerted.

  • All appropriately aged and located children* with an EHCP who are transitioning between placements for whatever reason are registered on ONE as ‘CME in transition’ as they are awaiting placement. The CME EWO is notified by e-mail.
  • If the SEN 0-25 Team are unable to identify and place the child on roll within four weeks, they remain registered as ‘CME in transition’ and home tutoring is put in place. The CME officer will be advised.
  • If the child is in care and out of placement, the learning advocate from the Virtual School will be advised immediately and the child will be recorded as ‘CME in transition’.
  • All CME cases after 30 days should be referred to 0-25 SEN Team Manager and if still unresolved, the SEN Senior Manager.
  • All casework activity will be noted in the Summary Memo on ONE
  • All children with an EHCP who are awaiting a change of placement will be monitored by Casework Teams. Children missing education from a school named on their EHCP will be monitored by the CME Team.

(k) ONE Data Team

The ONE Support and Data Teams are responsible for:

  • maintaining the ONE system with system administration
  • creating reports for the CME process
  • running regular reports to identify potential missing students (paper forms where electronic version is not possible)
  • processing incoming data from schools where data conflicts occur
  • making checks of national and local systems; contacting schools and other LAs to locate children
  • sending out letters to parents of new starters where a school place is not taken up to ascertain whether EHE, attending an independent school or moved out of county
  • updating the ONE system with new educational provision details
  • creating referrals to CME officer where children are CME
  • updating system where CME officer locates whereabouts of child
  • reports of sensitive data that will be alerted to all system users

Other agencies: (l) Devon Information Advice and Support (DIAS)

DIAS provides impartial information advice and support for children, young people with SEND and their parents.

DIAS provides advice about how to get a suitable education placement and support for communications with professionals.

For some of these families, the systems do not always work effectively. Through this work children and young people who are missing education are identified for a wide range of reasons. These include children and young people who are:

  • not on a school roll and not accessing education
  • on a school roll but not accessing education for a range of reasons
  • excluded with challenges about finding suitable placement
  • stuck in LA processes and not meeting timescales or making progress to placement

At the parent’s request, DIAS raise these situations to the Local Authority, through the CME Panel, to check that these children and young people are visible and their situation can be reviewed for further action.

(m) Police

Where there is an immediate risk to the child the police can intervene and if necessary invoke a Police Protection Order.

In all other circumstances where there are significant concerns MASH should be contacted and if appropriate the police will provide a joint home visit with Children’s Services.

(n) CSW Group

CSW Group is commissioned by the Local Authority to:

  • work with young people in education years 9–14 who are vulnerable to becoming ‘not in education, employment or training’ (NEET) to support them towards a positive outcome
  • support young people from year 9 upwards with an EHCP who are making or planning to make a transition to a different post-16 education provider
  • track all young people aged 13-19 on a regular basis

The key times of the year for tracking are in the spring when CSW tries to ascertain the young person’s intended destination for the following academic year; the end of September when all young people in years 11 and 12 should have an offer of education, employment or training under the terms of RPA (Raising Participation Age) and the end of November when the annual activity survey is completed.

Due to this activity, CSW has an up-to-date data base which has the ability to draw down a significant amount of information.

Most importantly for the Local Authority are the number of NEETS and the number of young people who are not known to CSW, as these statistics are a requirement of the DfE.

Sources of referrals

Devon County Council services, statutory and voluntary agencies, police, health, schools, education providers, members of the public and other local authorities.

School to complete destination field on SIMS, School Leaver’s Form (SL1) and Children missing education referral morm (CME1).

If the child is subject to a CIN, CP plan or there are other child protection concerns, contact allocated social worker or refer to MASH.

Child moved out of county – destination known

Where destination is known, CME team in that LA is alerted.
Confirmed on a school roll. No further action required – case closed.

Child moved out of county – destination not known

CME team to investigate and make agency checks as appropriate.
Child not found – parents or carers cannot be located at given address and all enquiries exhausted. Case remains open to CME team for regular local and national database checks with other agencies
Child found in Devon but not on a school roll.

CME Team to Contact parent or carer – give suitable advice and guidance regarding school admission or parent confirms intention to electively home educate. Should parent fail to cooperate start school attendance order process.

Parents or carers located in Devon but fail to engage School Attendance Order (SAO) process commenced – Education Act 1996 Section 437. Case remains open to CME Team until child registers at school or intent to EHE.