The aim of this study was to identify and re-present the experiences and views of a sample of children who have been 'missing' from education, and those of their parents/carers. Access to this hard to reach population has been possible as a result of an innovative interventionist tracking system, responding to pupil mobility, developed by the Education Authority in the fieldwork area. Semistructured interviews were conducted with parents/carers, children and young people with the aim of obtaining a demographic profile of families and eliciting a chronology of factors that participants saw as contributing to a child going missing from school systems. Three distinct life-course groups emerged from participants' accounts illustrating different degrees of disengagement from external systems. The authors conclude with a discussion of the different challenges each life-course group presents, for education policy and practice.