When children are absent from where they are expected to be....
Some children absent themselves for a short period and then return: often their whereabouts are known. They are not considered at risk and usually they are testing boundaries.
Sometimes children stay out longer than agreed either on purpose or unwittingly. This kind of boundary testing activity is well within the range of normal teenage behaviour and does not come within the definition of “missing” for the purposes of police categorisation (see here for more information). These children are usually regarded as children “who are absent without consent”. This does not apply to children of primary school age who should be referred immediately if missing.
When abduction is suspected, the situation must be referred to the Police immediately as a criminal matter.
Missing is defined for the purposes of police risk assessment as: Anyone whose whereabouts cannot be established and where the circumstances are out of character or the context suggests the person may be subject of crime or at risk of harm to themselves or another.
What happens when a student does not arrive at school, and there has been no contact from home to explain absence?
• The student will be marked absent at morning registration
• Where a student is under any previously notified “danger alert” concern, the attendance officer will alert the year team and the school will also contact home as soon as possible to ascertain whereabouts
• For all other students, contact with parents/carers will be made mid-morning using contact numbers provided informing them of the non-attendance
The school will also notify parents/carers where a student arrives late for school
What happens when a child is found to be missing during the school day due to truancy?
• The year team will call parents/carers and inform them and advise them to take the same sorts of approaches as 2 – 4 below.
What happens when a student has not arrived home at the end of the school day?
• The school recognises the anxiety that this can cause in parents/carers, particularly where this is out of character for the student or where students usually have travelled with parents/carers.
• The school will ask parents/carers if they have tried the child’s mobile phone number and what was the result.
• The office will check with year team to see if whereabouts known; they will also ask staff near the extra-curricular clubs and table tennis tables to see if it is possible for the student to be there and check with clubs/detentions as much as is possible.
• The school will also explain to parents/carers that students could still be on site, chatting with friends, waiting for them outside a room or simply having called in for some extra help with a staff member; it is a large site with well over a hundred rooms and other areas.
• The school will advise parents/carers to check friends or family to ensure they have not called in there. Where friends’ names at school are known, the office can ring these contacts to see if the child is there. [For confidentiality reasons, friends’ contact details will not be given to other children's parents/carers]
• The school will ask parents/carers to let the school know once the child is found.
• The school will advise parents/carers to ring police if they are concerned. Parents/carers can ring the police immediately if they have serious concerns about the safety of their child; they do not have to be absent for eg 24 hours.
What happens if parents/carers advise that a child has been missing for a sustained period of time? (eg since the previous evening)
• The school will check that the police have been informed (parents/carers should have a crime reference number)
• The school will contact the police, confirm they are aware and ask if any information needs to be provided from the school (eg friends’ contact details, or speaking to friends to see if they know where they may be)
• The school will keep in contact with parents/carers about progress of any search, and ask that they are told as soon as the child is safely returned
When will the school inform the police of a missing child/student:
• When a child is known to be vulnerable or at additional risk such that any absence should be treated as having serious implications for their safety
• Where circumstances are such that there is reason to fear for the immediate safety of the child eg report of crime or possible abduction
• When a child has been missing for a sustained period (eg overnight) and parents/carers have not informed the police
The school will also notify any social workers allocated to the family or child.