Pupils who are encouraged to “off-roll” from school registers before GCSEs due to funding pressures may fall prey to sexual abuse by grooming gangs, an MP warned yesterday.
Hull West and Hessle MP Emma Hardy said schools are facing budget cuts of 8 per cent in real terms and it is forcing them to take drastic action to deal with certain pupils.
In some cases this includes off-rolling, when parents are encouraged to take their child out of school, which critics see as a bid to boost exam results.
Many of these are also children with special educational needs and disability (SEND), who are off-rolled because the school does not have the resources to teach and support them, Ms Hardy suggested.
She spoke at a meeting of parents, councillors and education unions, who handed in a 34,000-strong petition to the Department for Education, calling for the “proper” funding of SEND in schools and colleges.
And her comments came after 16 members of a child grooming gang were last week given jail sentences totaling more than 200 years over the sexual exploitation of school girls in Huddersfield. Four others are awaiting sentence after being convicted earlier this month, while similar cases have been seen in towns across the UK.
Labour MP Ms Hardy told the Westminster meeting: “Quite simply there isn’t enough money.
“It is driving schools to do things which you would think an inclusive school would never dream of doing - that’s encouraging and off-rolling some of our most vulnerable pupils.
“I am extremely concerned and worried about this - that some of our most vulnerable pupils are being encouraged to leave school and off-rolling, and then finding themselves out there on the streets and possibly susceptible to people who we would not want our youngest and most people to be susceptible to, with very few powers to intervene and to help those people come back into school.”
She added: “We only need to look at the problems we have had in Huddersfield, the problems that are occurring all throughout our country to see what happens when our most vulnerable people are left without protection."
A spokeswoman said the Government “understands the pressure faced by local children’s services as well as schools” and provides £6bn for SEND pupils.