Express & Star

Thousands of pupils go missing from schools

More than 2,000 youngsters went missing from schools across the Black Country and Staffordshire, figures have revealed.

More than 2,000 youngsters went missing from schools across the Black Country and Staffordshire

Data from councils in the region showed children were missing from schools for 'substantial' periods of this academic year.

Schools in Sandwell reported the highest number of missing children, while a fewer number of children went missing from schools in Wolverhampton.

Liberal Democrat campaigner Ian Jenkins said his party was concerned some young people were at 'serious risk' of abuse and exploitation, as well as missing out on education.

He added: "All children missing education are very vulnerable. They are likely to under-achieve academically, and evidence suggests they may also be at greater risk of abuse, exploitation and neglect than their peers.

"They are also at serious risk of forced marriage, female genital mutilation and even radicalisation."

He also added that councils were 'failing some of these children who need help, love and support the most'.

The party is now calling for the government to compile a national report based on data from across the country, as well as review varying local authority figures.

Figures released after a Freedom of Information request by the Wolverhampton Liberal Democrats disclosed 2,070 have been recorded as missing from their schools.

Young people were recorded as 'missing from education' if they were of compulsory school age and authorities were unable to locate them for more than four weeks - or a few days if the child was vulnerable.

Councils revealed just 34 missing children were recorded in Wolverhampton, 201 pupils were missing in Walsall and 205 in Shropshire

Data also showed there were 419 missing children in Dudley, Staffordshire reported 555 young people not in education, and 656 children missing in Sandwell.

Almost one if five of children recorded as missing were known to social services in Dudley, the figures disclosed.

In Staffordshire, 53 young people had an open case with social services, had a child protection plan or were looked after during the academic year.

The data released showed many of the youngsters were also on free school meals - 23 per cent of missing pupils in Dudley.

Councillor Steve Eling, Sandwell Council leader, said: "There can be a range of reasons why a child is not on the school roll, from behavioural difficulties or being permanently excluded to being new to Sandwell and those without a place are found one within four to six weeks.

"At any one time there are usually around 75 children missing education - a small proportion when our school population is in excess of 53,000 children."