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FIFTY PUPILS GO MISSING FROM BRUM SCHOOLS; EXCLUSIVE Students leave before taking GCSEs.

Byline: BY FIONNUALA BOURKE

MORE than 50 Birmingham pupils went 'missing' from school last year - and have not been heard of since.

The Year 11 students, aged 15 to 16, stopped attending lessons without notice and, in some cases, head teachers failed to alert education welfare officers.

Many of the youngsters were underperforming and left before they were due to take their GCSEs, which they were expected to fail.

It is likely their school's performance in the league tables would be improved by them not taking the exams.

It is also believed that some may have been taken on extended holidays to see family abroad.

But concerns have now been raised about their safety and wellbeing.

Perry Barr Lib Dem councillor Jon Hunt, Chairman of the city council's Education and Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee, has called for parents to be more responsible and said schools must keep authorities informed about missing pupils.

He said: "Parents need to be aware that they are legally responsible for keeping their children at school and ensuring they have the chance to do their GCSEs.

"If there are any family problems or issues, they should make sure they tell somebody at their child's school.

"Schools can help. Teachers need to keep a close eye on these situations and inform education welfare if pupils don't turn up."

Coun Hunt is due to discuss a new report on missing pupils with his scrutiny committee on Wednesday.

It shows a total of 54 pupils from Birmingham schools disappeared in 2007.

These include six pupils from Washwood Heath Technical College, seven from Hodge Hill Secondary School and four from Turves Green Girl's School and Technology College.

None of the three schools reported that the pupils were missing to the education welfare officers in the first instance.

The report also shows a further 175 Year 11 pupils moved to alternative provision from Birmingham schools before they took their GCSEs.

Some finished their studies at Further Education colleges, while others decided to postpone their GCSEs or take up employment.

Coun Hunt said the missing pupils figures had improved dramatically since 2005 when 111 disappeared.

But they had crept up since 2006 when 46 were reported as missing.

"This is an issue we examine every year since the dramatic figures of 2005," said Coun Hunt.

"Although the rate has improved, it is not good enough that a sizeable number of pupils simply disappear and cannot be accounted for anywhere."

A Birmingham City spokesperson said: "We have written to all schools in the city over the past year to highlight the importance of making referrals to our education welfare service in all cases where schools are considering taking a pupil off roll, where no immediate approved education placement has been identified.

"The audit of 2006/07 removal from roll arrangements identified cases where the education welfare service had not been notified.

"Early investigation indicates that a number of these pupils removed from roll were done so appropriately, and were found suitable alternative provision.

"The local authority is continuing to work closely with schools to ensure the correct registration regulations are adhered to, and further discussions are proceeding with schools where individual cases have been recognised."

fionnualabourke@mrn.co.uk

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MISSING PUPILS: Washwood Heath Technical College, Hodge Hill Secondary School and Turves Green Girls School
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Jan 27, 2008
Words:553
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