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Counting Children

Counting children UK is a coalition of organisations and academics with intersectional interests from across the fields of safeguarding and child protection, education, SEND, data protection, law, and human rights. We are concerned about current quality and standards in debate about children out of school. We see harmful effects from inaccurate use of facts and figures by senior politicians, institutions, and their apparent lack of understanding about law and practice on children’s databases in England and Wales.

We want to draw attention to the concern we have with

  • (a) the accuracy of debate around counting children who are out of school used by the Department for Education and its arms length bodies;
  • (b) the conflation of different characteristics of children out of school for different reasons that creates misleading numbers and associated inferences; and
  • (c) the various proposals for the collection of more children’s data in a new national database and new unique single ID number in order “to find them all”.

We have been carrying out our own research with Local Authorities to better understand these questions since mid-2021 and will publish it when it is complete. In the mean time, it is important to properly and accurately discuss how the government is already counting children outside schools in England.

Our goals are  to 

  • increase the level of informed knowledge in public discussions and media;  
  • create a place to stay up to date with proposed policy and legislation;   
  • understand shared concerns and consensus, and any areas of disagreement;  
  • create a pool of expert and experienced voices for better evidence-based policy. 

We advocate for

Safe children, families and services
  • Respect for the rights of every child and family
  • Trusted access to public services
  • Transparent use of data by institutions
  • Informed families on “who knows what about me”
Safe data
  • Accurate numbers
  • Minimised data with trustworthy oversight
  • Purpose limitation and prevention of scope creep
  • Supporting the 5 safes of data (safe people, safe settings, safe projects, safe data, and safe outputs).

Counting children correctly matters, and should be a non-partisan aim, free from party politics. We are not affiliated as a coalition with any collective political, religious or philosophical beliefs. Each organisation or individual may have their own.