MORE than a fifth of children in Sandwell are not attending school regularly, shock new figures show.

School attendance figures up to the end of last year show that just over 13,000 children in Sandwell had an attendance rate below 90 per cent and the rate for more than 1,300 kids was below 70 per cent.

That means, of the 65,000 children in Sandwell – around 21 per cent are not attending school regularly enough.

The figures were discussed by Sandwell Council’s children’s services and education scrutiny board earlier this month.

Revealing the figures at the meeting, Louise Morris, the council’s children missing education (CME) officer, said: “That’s a heck of a lot of children that are still out of school.

“Despite the fact that our attendance is going in the right way, it actually has increased from last year, we’ve got 14,500 children that are still not attending school regularly. 

“That could be that they’ve got zero per cent attendance or they’ve got 89 per cent attendance.”

The council said attendance officers were visiting every school across Sandwell and looking at every cohort pupil-by-pupil with a fine-tooth comb to find out whether they were in school or not.

“It is a lot of children in Sandwell,” she continued From a cohort of 60,500. I hate to say this because it sounds like we’re making excuses but it’s the national average. The national average attendance is 92.82 and we’re at 98.2. That is no excuse, we want to be better. Way better.”

The number of children that are home-school has also seen a massive increase – from around 200 children five years ago to 745 currently – and there are concerns that there is enough support to support parents in their decision or bring the children back into school if they are struggling.

Just four members of staff support home-schooled children in Sandwell but the steep rise is already ringing alarm bells over whether the council could cope with the extra demand.

“Are four people enough? Probably not,” ” Mrs Morris told councillors.

“Some are real choices, it’s a cultural decision that parents have decided, however, we have got a lot of young people that didn’t get the school of their choice, they’ve got siblings in separate schools, and lots and lots of different reasons.

“In honesty, we have got more children that have come out of school because of anxiety and also special educational needs (SEN) where a parent doesn’t necessarily feel, rightly or wrongly, that their school have or haven’t provided them with the support they needed. So the needs of that electively home-educated (EHE) community are becoming more complex.

“If the numbers continue to rise, no, there’s not enough resources in EHA currently. If we can reduce it, we’re okay.”