Absent pupil triggers monitoring review

Another education authority is reviewing its pupil monitoring procedures following the absence of Molly Campbell, a 12-year-old pupil at the Nicolson Institute in Stornoway.

She was picked up at the school in the morning by her sister but was only reported missing when she failed to turn up at home in the late afternoon.

The girl was initially at the centre of "kidnapping" claims. But she later surfaced with her father in Lahore, Pakistan, saying she had left voluntarily and that she wanted to stay with her family.

According to Western Isles director of education Murdo Macleod, pupils are supposed to be reported if they fail to appear at any time during the day once they have registered in the morning as being in attendance.

This issue was given initial, and more tragic, prominence in August 2005, when Livingston schoolboy Rory Blackhall was found murdered. His killer intercepted him before he reached school, and his absence was only noticed when his grandfather arrived to collect him after school.

A subsequent survey on absence monitoring by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities found that, of 18 councils which responded, a third had a policy of first-day contact, a third did not have such a policy, and a third delegated responsibility to schools.

Now, West Lothian Council has introduced a text-messaging system to warn parents if their children do not show.

If contact cannot be established with a parent or guardian, the school is expected to carry out a risk assessment developed with Lothian and Borders Police in line with their missing persons procedures.

A spokesman for Groupcall said 17 of the 32 education authorities were using its messaging service in secondary schools. Of those that have come up for renewal, all have decided to retain it.

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