BRADFORD Council gave schools the wrong advice over removing children from school rolls for several years – Councillors have been told.

Schools were advised by the Council’s Children’s Services Department, via the Council’s website, that if a family chose to take a child on extended leave, the school was in their rights to remove that child from the rolls.

This meant the school would be able to reduce the number of “persistently absent” on its rolls – a measure that can impact a school’s Ofsted judgement.

However, at a recent meeting of Bradford Council’s Children’s Services Scrutiny Committee, members were told that the Council had been giving incorrect advice.

Marium Haque, Deputy Director, took on the role last year, and found that schools had been offered incorrect advice for a number of years.

Review to look at Bradford children who are educated 'outside mainstream system'

During a discussion on young people missing from school rolls, she said: “The advice to schools for a number of years was that if families chose to take extended leave, schools had the option of removing that child from the roll.

“That has since been corrected and it has been made crystal clear that this is not accurate.

“This was a piece of advice that was put in place three or four years ago. That advice came from the local authority from our website, and has now been corrected, with the proper advice put in place.”

Councillors appeared shocked at the revelation, and Chair of the Committee Councillor Mike Gibbons (Cons, Ilkley), said: “So you’re saying we had the wrong advice out there for three or four years?”

Mrs Haque added: “As far as I am aware.”

She said the issue was corrected in September last year once she was made aware of it.

The meeting was told it was important that pupils be left on school rolls until the Council was clear where they were, and whether they were being provided education elsewhere.

She added: “Schools now give a clear message to parents that they will take unauthorised absences very seriously.”

A Bradford couple were recently taken to court for the unauthorised absences of their children. The parents, who cannot be named to protect the identity of the children, were each fined £770 by Bradford and Keighley Magistrates Court.

The committee was told that if families are thought to have left the country, the child will remain on the Council and school books until they can establish where they are.

A report to the committee revealed that during the 2018/2019 year, 1,339 pupils had been referred to the Council as missing from Education. It added: “Of these enquiries have established the whereabouts of 65 per cent and supported them into education settings or determined they have moved out of the district. The demographic of the population of Bradford often means that families move both within and out of the district without informing school staff of new addresses and contact details.”