Thousands of vulnerable young people are falling out of education because local authorities are failing to keep track of them, a new report from Ofsted says.
According to the schools watchdog, too many young people are not enrolled in school for reasons such as teenage pregnancy, permanent exclusion, and mental health issues or special needs, meaning they are missing out on a suitable education.
Children and young people who only receive part-time education can become ‘invisible’ to local authorities, the inspectorate added.
Local authorities may also set expectations for some young people too low, meaning they do not achieve their potential, the study showed. The report pointed to the example of a teenage mother who was doing well at school, but once she became a parent, she attended only parenting classes.
Only a third of the local authorities visited for Ofsted’s survey keep a close enough eye on children not enrolled in school, and gather and analyse information about them centrally, the inspectorate says.
Ofsted has now called for “clearer lines of accountability” over who is responsible for these young people’s education.
There should also be more information sharing over local authority boundaries and between different government agencies, the report said.
Inspectors found 1,400 children and young people in the 15 authorities visited who were being educated part-time. If this pattern were repeated across all local authorities in England, it would mean more than 10,000 children were missing out on full-time education.
Sir Michael Wilshaw, Ofsted’s chief inspector said: “It is simply not acceptable that only a third of local authorities have a detailed understanding of what is happening to pupils who are not receiving full-time education.
“Ofsted is shining a spotlight on these failings. Our new arrangements for inspecting children’s social care services, which start this month, will request a specific report on school-age children who are not attending full-time education.
“Everyone must take greater responsibility for knowing where these children are. We owe it to them to ensure they are safe and can succeed.”
Teachers' union the NASUWT said local authorities were struggling to keep track of young people not in education because of policies introduced by the coalition.
“Savage cuts to local authority budgets mean that capacity within local authority services to ensure that children are receiving a suitable education has been severely reduced," NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said.
“Rather than attacking local authorities, Ofsted should be making recommendations on how the Coalition Government should support local authorities in ensuring that all children and young people can access their educational entitlements," she added.