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When a child is reported missing

Peter Kerry has a history of running away but always in the holidays or at weekends. "We knew that he'd run away before," says Janet Jamieson, deputy head at Peter's school, Langley Grammar in Slough. "but his jaunts were never in school time."

This time Peter chose half term to take a flight from Heathrow, where both his parents work, to Kuala Lumpur. His school remained ignorant until the news broke the following Friday. "The first intimation I had was from the Six O'Clock News," says Ms Jameson.

By Sunday Peter had been found so the school faced "none of the anxieties" of an institution with one of its members missing. "When we walked back in on Monday we knew he was safe."

Later in the week, however, when Channel Four's The Word whisked him off to New York, headteacher Alan Robinson decided "enough was enough" and complained about the programme encouraging Peter to truant.

The show cancelled its interview with Peter and he returned to Heathrow to be driven straight back to school by his mother.

"We were quite interested in the response of his classmates," says Ms Jamieson, "which was that he should not put his family through this and he should not put us through this. They were quite adamant, bless them."

Peter lives in the London borough of Harrow, where he has previously volunteered to be admitted into care. His school, a grant-maintained mixed grammar, is 15 miles away in Berkshire and he cycles 30 miles a day to get himself to and fro. His attendance - which was good before his Malaysian escapade - is back to normal, according to Ms Jamieson. "Basically he's had his head well down. He's just done his GCSE options and he knows it's terribly important to be working hard, which we are delighted about."

She says that while Peter was not a "model pupil", he had a low key profile before the incident. "There was no call for him to come to our attention before. He's not very forthcoming but he's never been a problem in school. "

She believes he always intended to return home and, in that respect, is not a typical runaway. However, his actions have sharpened the school's awareness of the need to keep in touch with pupil's feelings. "Things can appear very normal on the outside and we may only be hours away from something very unusual. "

She believes the school has a good record of pastoral care - although there's always room for improvement: "you listen more and try to talk to the children as much as you can."

Peter's mother has never broken contact wih the school and lately there have been "a lot of long phone calls". The fact that his social services department are in a different local authority has made communication more difficult but recently there has been a meeting and another has been scheduled.

The school expects him to do well in GCSEs and to take A-levels. "We do care for him very much. If anything else were to happen it would seriously jeopardise his academic chances and we think he knows that."

A fortnight ago Peter was arrested at home over allegations of using his father's passport and credit cards illegally. He has not been charged and inquiries are continuing.

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