THE borough council says it’s doing all it can to track down children who should be at school but are missing.

Currently, there are 21 youngsters who should be attending classes but are not and they are not being schooled at home and whose whereabouts are being tracked by the authority.

Officers from the council say they do more than many others.

Jane Griffiths, a senior education officer, told councillors on the children’s health, care and education oversight and scrutiny committee: “We try and trace a child missing from education until we know where they are, even if they are overseas.

“Many other authorities remove a child from the missing education register when they feel they’ve made all reasonable efforts to trace them. We don’t do that, we keep them there until we know where they are.”

Ms Griffiths said that the first few months of a school year after September always saw the highest numbers of children not at school.

In September that figure was 80, the same at the previous years, but the council has managed to trace three quarters of those youngsters.

Ms Griffiths said: “It’s a pattern that numbers rise at the start of the school year, Families move home during the summer holidays and fail to notify the school. There are several reasons, children do not return to the UK following visits to extended families abroad, children fail to turn up to the school they have been allocated. Sometimes parents fail to send their child to an allocated school because it’s not their preferred choice or there are transport issues or a change in family circumstances.”

She added the council was working with schools to try and bring in an updated and quicker monitoring system for absences.

Ms Griffiths said: “At the moment these figures are lagged, which is not ideal when working with young people.

“We are hoping to roll-out an open source system that will give us data almost in real time, so that will be an improvement and help us deal with any issues.”

The committee was told that four families educating their children at home have been told to send them to a mainstream school because they are not receiving n education good enough.

A recent audit of children being educated at home showed there were 231 in Swindon, with 114 fully checked and approved by council inspectors.

Another 66 are still being checked but 34 are listed as being of concern, while 17 have since returned to mainstream schools.

Ms Griffiths said: “Thirty of those cases are where parents haven’t sent us all the information about electively educating their children at home. They haven’t engaged with us. We are following up those families.

“We have issued four notices requiring attendance at school because we feel the education at home is not meeting those children’s needs.

“Again, we do more than most authorities on this.

“It does put us in a difficult space with the families, but we do have the right and responsibility to say if we feel home education is not meeting the needs of a child.”

Councillor Nick Martin asked why parents choose to not educate their children at school.

Education officer Caroline Starling said: “Sometimes parents feel their child will thrive better, and sometimes they do. Sometimes the relationship with a school and a family has broken down.

“Beliefs and values and philosophy of life are also reasons why parents elect to educate at home.

“Sometimes parents make what we think is a less informed choice, and it’s those families we are most concerned with.”