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Concern over Sussex ‘Ghost Children’
Almost 1,000 pupils in West Sussex could be slipping through the cracks of education as “ghost children”.
Some 982 students are dual-registered – meaning they get additional support outside of their main school.
West Sussex County Council has now admitted that some of these have become “ghost children”, left to their own devices by schools unmotivated to make sure they attend classes.
The county council said it did not know how many children were affected as they were not subject to “statistical analysis”.
Many of these children find it difficult in a traditional school setting, some are at risk of exclusion, others are too ill for mainstream education and some have special needs.
A report by the council revealed some of these pupils are being neglected by either their main school or their second education provider or sometimes both.
Schools register the “ghost children” but do not expect them to attend the school and are not taking responsibility for them.
The report cited one school which was keen to take on the child’s welfare responsibilities but had no knowledge about the pupil and had not even met them.
A special task force heard of examples of where schools had not taken full responsibility for monitoring the child’s attendance.
The force’s report also said failures meant there was the potential for children to be absent from both the school and alternative provider, resulting in concerns for the welfare of the young person.
And for children who exhibit very challenging behaviour, the task force found “there may be circumstances where neither the school nor alternative provider are strongly motivated to ensure the children actually attend”.
There were also issues with the way in which attendance was recorded by some schools, with some using a ‘block coding’ approach which recorded a pupil as attending the alternative establishment for a period of time, rather than checking each day.
The taskforce recommended a review of how the council deals with dual-registered pupils in the future.
It highlighted better use of IT, including data sharing between schools to solve the issue.
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