Ofsted criticises councils for failing to track missing school children

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has criticised Bradford, Birmingham and Luton councils for doing little to trace pupils which go missing from mainstream schools.

Wilshaw voiced his concerns about the councils in a letter to Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, where he warned the councils were failing to keep track of missing pupils who were removed from schools in the middle of the year.

Wilshaw cautioned that such a failure left children vulnerable to ‘harm, exploitation or the risk of falling under the influence of extremist views’. In particular, Wilshaw raised concerns about Birmingham City Council ‘and its ability to provide the necessary help and protection for children in need, as well as to ensure the safety of all school-age children in the city’.

According to the Ofsted boss, children who go missing are often simply removed from the council’s records, with 253 missing children being taken off the list without being located between September 2015 and January 2016.

The letter continued to highlight that ‘a number of heads said that they felt unsupported by the local authority in confronting these challenges’.

Wilshaw has recommended that Bradford, Birmingham and Luton councils should be monitored on a termly basis by dedicated Ofsted inspectors. The news comes as the government is toughening up requirements for schools to inform councils about pupils who are removed.

Responding to Wilshaw’s findings, Brigid Jones, Birmingham's cabinet member for children, families and schools, said: “We found the comments in Sir Michael's letter to be a surprise. In terms of the chief inspector's comments on schools in Birmingham, we note what is being said but contend they don't fully reflect the feedback that we receive from teachers, our education commissioner and the positive views of other government departments on our work on extremism.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Education commented: “Ofsted acknowledges that schools have improved and we should praise the professionals involved. However, we must remain vigilant against a small minority in communities who seek to undermine fundamental British values.”

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