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What to do if a pupil fails to turn up for school

The murder of Livingston pupil Rory Blackhall last year has led to the publication of proposed guidelines on what to do when a child fails to arrive at school.

Hugh Henry, the Education Minister, launched Engaged and Involved, which was prepared following a review of parental contact on absence from school, prompted by Rory's death. The 11-year-old's absence went unreported until his grandfather came to collect him from school later that day.

The consultation document sets out how schools should make stronger links between absence and protection of children, and reduce time spent off school. It describes procedures for councils on issues such as contacting parents when a child has not arrived.

Engaged and Involved also proposes reclassifying medical and dental appointments out of school under authorised absence, rather than attendance. This means they would be considered in the same way as sickness, bereavement, religious observance, attendance at children's hearings, immediate family weddings, and attendance at sporting or cultural events approved by the school.

"Missing school means children are missing out," said Mr Henry at the launch this week. "Education is vital and pupils can pay a high price for missing school in terms of future career prospects and life chances.

"That's why it's essential that everyone - parents, schools, councils and the executive - works together to improve attendance and ensure pupils make the most of their education. As importantly, we're making stronger links between absence and protection of children, ensuring schools take immediate action when a child fails to turn up without explanation."

Consultation on the guidelines runs until February 27.

* www.scotland.gov.ukconsultations

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