Fears for 400 ‘missing’ pupils

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MORE than 400 Sheffield pupils are currently officially classed as ‘missing’ from the city’s schools - one of the highest figures in the country.

Education chiefs admit the numbers fluctuate daily, recently reaching a peak of 460 - the equivalent of an average- sized primary school.

Those on the list are youngsters aged between five and 16 who are known to the authority but who are not in education or some other kind of appropriate provision.

A national survey lists Sheffield as having the seventh worst record in the country, with Doncaster in ninth .

Children’s charities and Government inspection service Ofsted say they are deeply concerned by the findings, as they fear the missing children could be at risk of physical, sexual or mental harm.

Enver Solomon, director of policy for the Children’s Society, said: “It is vital that children don’t disappear from the school roll. There’s a danger this could happen to vulnerable pupils if schools just focus on attainment and their welfare is overlooked.”

In Sheffield 133 pupils on the register are new to the city, while nine are traveller children. The others are said to be not in education for ‘other reasons’.

A city council spokesman said: “There have been a large number of families moving into Sheffield from out of the city. These populations are largely concentrated in three main areas - Tinsley, Fir Vale and Burngreave.

“It is important to secure places quickly for children not in provision. It is also important to plan for their admission in an ordered way so as to ensure that appropriate provision is in place and that schools are able to respond to the increasing demands placed on them.”

Sheffield has a dedicated team solely responsible for making sure children are placed in appropriate education as soon as possible.

The spokesman said: “The number of children identified here as missing from education is testimony to the strategies in place for identifying those who may be most at risk.”

Once a child is identified as missing, an education welfare officer visits the family to provide assistance with making a school application.