Thousands of children 'missing out on education'
Thousands of children in England are missing out on an education, the National Children's Bureau says.
The charity's research suggests many lose out as they have no school place or are unknown to the authorities.
The findings, based on Freedom of Information requests to councils, show that across 79 authorities 7,701 children on any day are down as missing class.
The Department for Education says the findings are misleading and unhelpful.
The NCB said that if 7,701 young people are missing school every day in the authorities that provided information, this would suggest more than 14,800 children are not in education at any time across the country.
A further analysis, based on detailed Freedom of Information responses from 45 councils, suggests that, on any given day, of those who are missing education, there are an estimated 3,000 youngsters in England whose whereabouts are unknown.
The study claims almost 5,000 children are losing out because they are waiting for a school place.
Other reasons given by local authorities for children being classed as "missing education" included being excluded from school; having special educational needs; being pregnant or a teenage mother; not enrolled in school or moving between schools; or because they have moved or are believed to have moved overseas.
Children are considered to be missing education if they are not on a school roll and not receiving suitable education other than at school, according to government guidance.
The NCB said it was calling for the government to conduct a national review of children missing education.
'Physical and emotional harm'
The charity's chief executive, Dr Hilary Emery, said: "Children who miss out on education are at significant risk of failing academically, and may end up as Neets [not in education, employment or training] in later life because their school life has been disrupted.
"There is also the real possibility that some of these children will suffer physical and emotional harm, particularly if they are taken off the school roll and their whereabouts become unknown.
"Recent high-profile cases of child sexual exploitation have involved children missing from education, and there is also a correlation between missing education and becoming a victim of forced marriage."
Dr Emery said the NCB was calling on the government to conduct a national review of children missing education and to improve the way data is collected both locally and nationally.
"The review should consider how local authorities, schools, social services and their partners can work with children and their families to ensure they and their families receive the best support possible, so they can get back into education."
But a Department for Education spokesman said: "These findings are misleading and unhelpful.
"Missing education is defined as a child not being registered at school when they should be or not being otherwise educated.
"This report inappropriately includes children who have missed one or two days of school, for anything from moving between schools to being sent home for having behavioural problems."
The report wrongly assumed these children were all automatically vulnerable or had slipped off the radar, the spokesman added.
"Local authorities and schools are best placed to keep accurate records of children in education and our recently revised guidance makes clear there is no excuse for them not to meet their responsibilities in this area."
Parents had a legal responsibility to ensure their children were receiving a proper education, he added.