Esther McVey has re-issued her plea for Government to create a child register to ensure everyone gets a proper education – after she uncovered figures showing more than 350 children across Cheshire are “missing” from the education system.
In Cheshire East there are 305 children recorded as not being in full-time education or accessing alternative educational provisions such as home learning, and a further 55 young people across Cheshire West.
The Tatton MP submitted Freedom of Information requests to both councils to try and gage the size of the problem across the county.
She said: “One child missing out on an education is one too many and we have 360 in Cheshire alone. That is 360 young people who could be missing out on life chances, not learning basic skills, or having any access to an education and that cannot be right.
“This is why I have been calling for a national register which would detail every child of school age to ensure they are receiving a proper education. It is not about where they are being education, be it school or at home, but for those accessing no educational provision, it is about ensuring no child is left behind or forgotten.”
Ms McVey said she will be seeking a meeting with Schools Minister Nick Gibb to set out the urgent need for a register. A national register would see any child moving school from either a neighbouring school or a different area, recorded as being at a new institution, to ensure a continued education. It would end children being taken out of school and unaccounted for.
She added: “This is not about those being home-educated or those who did not get sent back to school following the pandemic, it goes beyond that. There are gaping holes in data that is collected by the Department for Education and when data is collected the level of detail is not there.
“There is no point knowing the number of children missing from education if we do not know who these children are and where to find them. A child is not just a number and every child deserves an education and we need to know who the children are that are missing and what can be done to support them back into education.”
As it stands Local Authorities have a duty to put in place arrangements for identifying those children of compulsory school age in their area who are not registered or receiving suitable education – but this guidance from Government is non statutory – meaning there is no requirement on councils to do it.
Earlier this year when Ms McVey called for a register, Government told her it had no plans to introduce one.
However, pressure is now mounting on Government after a recent report from the Common’s Education Select Committee say a national register must be established to ensure all children out of school get a suitable education.