References and research

These are a selection of references for oft cited reports and research in this subject area and not an endorsement of any of the views contained in them other than those from our coalition members and supporters. In fact, many are contentious and our own work to count children will often contrast with others.

Published Fact Checks

Full Fact July 2021 Figure of 100,000 children missing from school is out of date

Full Fact June 2021 Pandemic school attendance: fact checked “The Centre for Social Justice, found 93,514 pupils missed more than 50% of school sessions between September to December 2020 so this is unrelated to the reopening of schools in March. Before the pandemic the figure was about 60,000.”

Views from others

February 2022, FFT Education Data Lab Who are the children who have fallen off the radar?

December 2021 FFT Education Data Lab The SEND Review ought to find out why so many young people are in local authority commissioned alternative provision

Published reports

Reported data on attendance

May 2022 Attendance in all state-funded schools was adjusted to exclude year 11-13 pupils who are not in attendance because they are off-site for approved purposes was 91.9% on 12 May according to the DfE. The overall absence rate in state-funded primary, secondary, and special schools in England in the 2018/19 academic year was 4.7%. Approximately 93% of all pupils with an EHCP on roll in state-funded primary schools were in attendance on 12 May, same on 28 Apr. Approximately 93% of all pupils with a social worker on roll in all state-funded primary schools were in attendance on 12 May, up from 92% on 28 Apr. Pupils with a social worker are considered ‘children in need’. the number of pupils eligible for FSM has increased from 1.44 million (17.3% of all pupils) in January 2020 to 1.74 million (20.8% of all pupils) in January 2021. Approximately 94% of all pupils eligible for FSM on roll in state-funded primary schools were in attendance on 12 May, same on 28 Apr. [DfE data, May 27, 2022]

There are further important caveats to remember when talking about absence data comparisons over time. The persistent absence threshold has consistently been made easier to reach since 2010, moving from 20% in 2010, to 15% until 2014/15 and only 10% since 2016. So a child is classified as “persistently absent” much more quickly today than ten years ago. Furthermore, the legal status of educational establishments (ie academisation) changes how data is counted and when. Historically, the main driver for absence is illness. In 2020/21, this was 2.1% across the year. During Covid, the absence rate for pupils with an EHC plan was 13.1% across 2020/21.


January 2022, Centre for Social Justice, Lost but not forgotten: the reality of severe absence in schools post-lockdown. (.pdf download)

Claim on Absence: “Severe absence has spread through our school system like wildfire: nearly 800 schools have an entire class-worth of ghost children. In fact, in half of all local authorities over 500 children are severely absent.”

2021 Education Select Committee Report on Elective Home Education The “Association of Directors of Children’s Services projected that as of October 2020 more than 75,000 children were being educated at home, an increase of 38 per cent from the previous year.”

2018 ADCS on Elective Home Education issued a survey to all 152 local authorities (LAs) in the Elective Home Education Survey 2018. Of all 152 local authorities (LAs) in England 106 responded and recorded a total of 40,359 children and young people known to be home schooled on school census day, 4 October 2018.

2017 National Children’s Bureau (NCB) Children Missing Education
Suggested 49,187 school-aged children were recorded as missing from education in the academic year ending in July 2017. This FOI looked at children missing at any point in the year 2015-16 ever, a total count over 365 days, not a snapshot in time on any given day. Also notes that 15% of children recorded as CME were known to social services. (Ellison, R. and Hutchinson, D. (2018) ‘Children missing education’, NCB Report p. 18.

2015/2016 BBC on Children Missing from Education. “Thousands of children ‘missing’ from education”. The figures, obtained by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme, show that 33,262 school-aged children were recorded as missing from education in the academic year ending in July 2015. They were collated from a Freedom of Information request to 90 local education authorities in England and Wales.

2014 National Children’s Bureau (NCB) on Children Missing Education. This FOI focussed on the number of children missing at any one point in time. This estimated that 14,800 children were missing education across England at any one time, and the whereabouts of 3,000 of these was unknown. (NCB Policy Unit (2014) Not Present, what future? This report used numbers made up from data from 79 Local Authorities on one day in early 2014, which was 7,701 from which the NCB extrapolated the estimation of 14,800 across England of which 1,022 were counted as of unknown whereabouts and again after estimation, suggest this is 3,000 across England. Across the same 45 Local Authorities 1,474 were known children awaiting place in AP, and an estimated 5,000 awaiting places for other reasons.


Feldstein, S. (2020). State surveillance and implications for children. UNICEF Good Governance of Children’s Data project. Issue Brief No.1

Munro, E. (2019). Predictive analytics in child protection.

Wrennall, L. (2010). Surveillance and Child Protection: De-mystifying the Trojan Horse. Surveillance & Society, 7(3/4), 304–324.