Children's commissioner briefing: falling through the gaps in education

Document type
Policy briefing
Corporate author(s)
Children's Commissioner
Children's Commissioner for England
Date of publication
14 November 2017
Children and Young People, Social Policy, Education and Skills
Social welfare
Material type

Download (713KB )

This briefing provides a background analysis into the educational needs of vulnerable children.

Tens of thousands of children are educated outside mainstream or special schools. Many are effectively ‘hidden’ away in settings where little is known about how well their needs are being met.

Key Points:

  • Around 38,000 child and young people are exclusively or primarily enrolled in alternative provision (AP), a hugely diverse sector that is not always monitored and regulated by Ofsted. A further 10,000 are enrolled at an alternative setting in addition to being enrolled elsewhere.
  • Over 50,000 children aged 5-to-17 years old could be home-educated in total across England, with little known about the environment, the quality of teaching and assessment, and the values being taught to them. The true number of home-educated children is unknown and likely to be higher.
  • Ofsted has identified nearly 300 establishments, involving thousands of children, that could be illegal schools. Its inspections have uncovered that hundreds of children were attending establishments found to be illegal. The true number of illegal schools, and the number of children attending them, are both unknown.

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