More ‘welfare cases’ opened across SELB than in Belfast

1,099 children flagged up as a concern to welfare officers
1,099 children flagged up as a concern to welfare officers

More children have been referred to education welfare officers under the Southern Education and Library Board (SELB), than any other ELB area since 2009.

In a new report released by the national audit office, that also states children here miss twice as many school days as their English counterparts, it said 1,099 school children were flagged up as a concern between 2011 and 2012.

That means that pupils studying under the SELB made up 28.8% of all students in Northern Ireland that were referred on to a higher power in relation to poor attendance, during that time.

The SELB, which oversees schools in Cookstown, Magherafelt, Dungannon, Portadown and Armagh, was second only to Belfast in the number of children taken on by welfare officers since 2007.

Although, Belfast — where 5,173 children have been invesitgated since 2007 for missing school — has improved almost year-on-year, with just 910 new referrals making it onto the welfare list in 2011/12.

Across SELB schools, however 5,058 cases have been handed to education welfare officers in the last seven years.

And in every academic year since 2007/08 the SELB has referred at least 900 pupils for investigation and help, with the figure increasing from 997 during 2010/11 to 1,099 in the latest figures.

The statistics mark the SELB out as having the biggest problem when compared to other rural ELBs. Since 2007/08 WELB has referred 3,266 pupils, while NEELB flagged 3,756 cases and SEELB, the lowest number at 3,223.

The SELB said: “The Audit Office report is subject to a Public Accounts Committee hearing therefore no comment can be given at this time.”