Last reviewed 14 March 2022

Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has published the interim findings from her Attendance Audit and highlighted that some 1.8 million children missed at least 10% of school in the autumn term.

“Where are England’s Children?”, which can be found at childrenscommissioner.gov.uk, examines the extent to which local authorities (LAs) in England are meeting their duty under the Education Act 1996 to make arrangements to establish the identities of children in their area who are not registered pupils at a school and are not receiving suitable education.

“We are also conducting deep-dives into 10 LAs, where we are speaking to children, and in particular, the children labelled hard to reach,” the Commissioner said. “We have spoken to hundreds of children across the 10 LAs we are auditing and plan to reach many more over the course of our project.”

An initial survey sent to all LAs in England (of which 145 responded) found that, while they all knew how many pupils were registered in LA maintained and academy schools in Autumn 2021, just 18% provided an estimate of the number of children in mainstream independent schools.

Half of LAs provided estimates for persistent absence and severe absence.

The average rate of estimated persistent absence (missing over 10% of sessions) was 22% and the average rate of severe absence (missing over 50% of sessions) was 1.5%. In total, the Commissioner estimates that there were 1,782,000 pupils persistently absent and 124,000 pupils severely absent in the autumn 2021 term.

“From these key findings,” she concludes, “we do not have an accurate real time figure of how many children there are in England, nor where they are — let alone the number of children not receiving education.”