Thousands of children are registered at a school but have not attended for months, or even years, it has been reported.
The National Children’s Bureau (NCB) highlights that, across the UK, the number of children missing from education exceeds 33,000, based on freedom of information data collected in 2016.
In light of this, the children’s charity has called on the government’s Department for Education (DfE), to update its statutory guidance for local authorities, to prevent children missing out on their education.
Research also found that children were missing school because of special educational needs, because they were victims of domestic violence, or because their parents have moved to the UK from abroad and do not understand school admissions processes.
Another factor to this problem, the study found, was that local authorities had mixed approaches to recording information, and delivering statutory and non-statutory duties. In response to this, the NCB argued that the legal definition of children missing education within the Education Act 1996 should be expanded.
In addition to this, the NCB has urged the DfE to update statutory guidance for local authorities to include a duty to maintain a register of children who are not on a school roll.
The charity also called on Ofsted to inspect school and local authority performance in relation to children missing education.
Debbie Barnes, chair of the Association of Directors of Children's Services' educational achievement policy committee, commented: "The report rightly recognises that children go missing from education for many different reasons, but this can be the first sign of vulnerability to all forms of abuse and neglect, including sexual exploitation or radicalisation.
"Current legislation does not enable local authorities to safeguard vulnerable learners or to ensure that they receive a suitable education, for example, we do not always know when children have fallen off the radar as there is no requirement on some schools, including 'illegal' schools, or on parents or carers of children being electively home educated to provide any information or evidence of the quality of their pupils' educational experiences or of their health and wellbeing.”