Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw has warned of “potentially high numbers of pupils” disappearing from school registers in Birmingham and Tower Hamlets in east London. Sir Michael said this “serious safeguarding issue” emerged as inspectors made follow-up visits after the so-called Trojan Horse inquiries. The chief inspector said it was unclear where some pupils had gone next.
The Department for Education said it would take “immediate steps”.
The Ofsted chief had warned there was a lack of robustness in identifying why pupils had been taken off school registers or their next destination – making it difficult to know if they could be at risk from “extremist ideologies”.
In some cases he said there were “generic” descriptions, such as “moved abroad” or “gone to live with grandparents” – or in one case “gone back to Libya”.
There are also pupils who are thought to have been moved to unregistered schools.
Sir Michael says inspectors have found “potentially high numbers of pupils whose names are being deleted from school admissions registers without either the schools or the local authorities having an accurate understanding of where those pupils have gone”.
Between September 2013 and June 2015, more than a thousand pupils moved from 14 schools being monitored. But in more than 350 cases their intended destination was not clearly recorded.
These pupils might be safely studying in other schools in other parts of the country, but Ofsted warns that there is a worrying lack of certainty.
“It is an issue which I believe has wider implications for schools and local authorities across the country,” said the chief inspector. “We cannot be sure that some of the children whose destinations are unknown are not being exposed to harm, exploitation or the influence of extremist ideologies.” We know three of them from Bethnal Green are now Jihadi brides in the Islamic State. They won’t be coming back. But that still leaves 347 unknown.