Examination of Witnesses (Questions 500
TUESDAY 25 MARCH 2008
Q500 David Davies: Not only are 27
missing but, also, presumably, that figure does not include children
who have gone on extended leave. How many are actually on extended
leave and, to your knowledge, have been taken out of the country?
Mr Gaskin: I could get you those
figures. I do not have those figures with me. I can tell
Q501 David Davies: Obviously, what
we are investigating is the forced marriage, abduction and rape,
effectively, of young girls, and many of them will have been taken
on extended leave and the reason given will have been that they
were going abroad, because there will not be many other reasons
acceptable, will there? Is it fair to assume that all those on
extended leave will have been taken abroad?
Mr Gaskin: It is not fair to assume
that all of them on extended leave are abroad, no.
Q502 David Davies: But most of them.
Mr Gaskin: It may well be, and
I would need to get the breakdown of numbers.
Q503 David Davies: Are we talking
about over 100 on extended leave, do you think?
Mr Gaskin: Again, I would not
like to speculate. I can tell you that we have
Q504 David Davies: I am sorry if
my tone does not sound as warm and friendly as it should, but
it is a serious matter.
Mr Gaskin: There are, at the moment,
15 pupils on the out-of-school roll, removed from roll after extended
leaveseven of those have been on for two months or more.
I can tell you that as on 19 March, in terms of breakdown of gender
and ethnicityand we have not been asked for any numbers
by gender or ethnicityso all the figures
Q505 Chairman: Not been asked by
Mr Gaskin: No. All the figures
that have been bandied around in the press that assume these are
all girlsit is incorrect.
Q506 Chairman: Are you going to give
us the correct picture?
Mr Gaskin: As at 19 March, in
relation to secondary age pupils, there were no girls who are
on the register because they have been removed from roll for extended
leave. There are no secondary-aged girls on the register.
Q507 David Davies: But there are
Mr Gaskin: There are some "missing
from education" who are girls.
Q508 David Davies: And there are
some who are on extended leave who are girls. Until you mentioned
it, we have not looked at those on extended leave as being part
of the problem. We have looked at those who have not returned
from extended leave, but clearly those who are on extended leave
are very relevant to this issue. So I think we would appreciate
figures on that, with perhaps a breakdown of the sex and ethnicity
as well, if possible.
Mr Gaskin: Which I can provide,
Q509 David Davies: What are you doing
to try and identify where those who are missing actually are?
Mr Gaskin: We follow all the procedures
that are required. So if a school reports that a pupil is no longer
at school and they do not know where they are, they are asked
to make reasonable inquiries, and it is referred to the Education
and Social Work Service that visits their last known address.
If after four weeks there cannot be any trace found of those pupils
then their details are uplifted to the missing children's database
at the DCSF. In relation to children who have not returned from
extended leave, inquiries are made at the address and inquiries
are also made, where possible, with extended family members to
see whether or not they have any information about when the families
will be returning.
Q510 Chairman: The reason why Mr
Davies is pressing you on these figures is because the figures,
originally, came from the Minister, and we were unclear then what
they all meant. I have to say I think it is unsatisfactory; I
am still unclear about precisely what all these figures mean,
and I think we need these figures as soon as possible. What Mr
Davies is asking is: what inquiries are then undertaken by the
Mr Gaskin: By the DCSF?
Q511 Chairman: By yourselves. That
is why you are here. The DCSF has nothing to do with us; it is
all up to Bradford. What is Bradford doing about it?
Mr Gaskin: I will try again. I
am sorry if I am not being clear, Chairman. When a notification
is made by a school that a pupil has gone missingthey did
not know where they were going and they have just leftinquiries
are made at the last known address to see whether or not there
is anybody there. After a month the details of that child are
uplifted on to the DCSF database. We check regularly on that database
to see whether or not another school anywhere in the country has
Q512 Chairman: The Committee understands
that. I think the concern we have is that we have been given information
by the Minister and we are no clearer as to where this information
leads us. How many children are you currently concerned about
in respect of these matters? Are there any concerns about any
of these children or are you absolutely satisfied everything is
Mr Gaskin: If you mean in terms
of concerns about whether or not any crimes have been committed,
part of the process which the Education and Social Work Service
goes through is to look at the individual cases and assess against
the criteria in the statutory guidance
Q513 Chairman: We understand that.
Mr Gaskin:whether or not
there is any concern about a crime
Q514 Chairman: Are you concerned
today, on 25 March?
Mr Gaskin: No, no.
Q515 Chairman: No concerns about
any of the children?
Mr Gaskin: We do not have any
concerns about whether or not any of those are victims of crime.
We do, as part of our process, after two weeks, write to health,
the police and social care to ask them if they have any information
about those pupils. We repeat that a month later.
Q516 David Davies: Once those children
have reached the age of 16 and are legally eligible to leave education,
do they then go off the radar?
Mr Freeman: The position on that
is that they are no longer children missing education.
Q517 David Davies: So, basically,
a child disappears at the age of 15, inquiries are made for a
month or so and then the child's name is put on to a database
at DCFS, but as soon as that child's 16th birthday is reached
it does not matter whether they are never heard of againnobody
will actually be looking for them.
Mr Freeman: From the point of
view of statutory education, that is correct. Of course, safeguarding
concerns remain, but in terms of the database of children who
are in statutory education they will not be on that because they
are past the age.
Q518 David Davies: I understand that.
What is the age of the youngest missing child?
Mr Gaskin: I believe it is six.
Chairman: We need to move on now to the
next set of questions.
Q519 Mr Winnick: Mr Gaskin, if we
can just clarify the position. You say it is now 27 children who
are missing from secondary schools for more than two months. Is
that the position?
Mr Gaskin: It is 27 pupils in
secondary and primary in the two categories