Throughout the world ensuring formal education to all children has been an area of lively debate for about a decade with many different viewpoints on the issue. Sadly, Universalisation of Elementary Education is still a distant prospect in substantial parts of the globe, including India. Under such circumstances, Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA) was launched in India in 2001 to extend useful and quality elementary education to all children in the age group of 6-14 years before the end of 2010. It has been able to bring the children to school but has failed to retain them and high incidence of drop out emerges to be the most critical problem facing the Indian education scenerio. The present paper explores the trends in school drop out, reasons behind leaving schools, how programmes and policies have fared in reducing school drop-out, and how to make these policies more effective. To bring to light factors that push children out of school and thereby suggest policies, we have undertaken a Field Survey in selected rural areas of West Bengal. Low level of income emerges to be the most crucial factor responsible for the incidence of out of school children. Other factors include insufficient educational infrastructure, lucrative earning opportunities for the children, lack of consciousness among the parents etc. It seems that time has come to refocus and reorient the operation of SSA, transforming it from an infrastructure based approach to a facilitating approach. A targeted approach should be taken whereby different policies should be formed for retention of different age-groups of children in schools. The gender and regional dimension should also be taken into consideration and policies must reflect local socio-economic conditions. A concerted approach with economic growth, poverty eradication and expansion of elementary education going hand in hand is the need of the hour.