Family told daughter is missing

A FELIXSTOWE family today spoke of their nightmare when an automated absence system rang to say their daughter was not in school - four hours after registration.

A FELIXSTOWE family today spoke of their nightmare when an automated absence system rang to say their daughter was not in school - four hours after registration.

Tina and David Cawdron's minds immediately filled with all kinds of horrible possibilities of what could have happened to 15-year-old Sarah.

But Sarah was safe and well at school - even though it was another hour and a three-quarters before staff at Orwell High could confirm it.

“We were out of our minds with worry - all kinds of things go through your head,” said Mr Cawdron, of Grange Road, Felixstowe.


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“It was a nightmare - we went to hell and back just not knowing.”

Headteacher Peter Tomkins apologised to the family for what he described as “human error” after a teacher taking a register marked the wrong pupil's box, sparking the drama - but the Cawdrons are calling for the high-tech system to be upgraded.

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Mr Cawdron said it was disgraceful it took the system four hours after registration to inform a family their child was absent.

“If Sarah had really not been at school and something had happened to her and she really had been missing that was four hours wasted when we could have been doing something,” he said.

Sarah left for school in Maidstone Road at 8.30am, but it was not until 12.30pm the family received a voicemail message saying she was not there.

Mrs Cawdron said: “We called the school immediately but they couldn't go and check if Sarah was there because it was lunchtime and they said the children were all over the school.

“It was not until 2.15pm when they were actually able to tell us she was there. It was such a relief.”

Mr Cawdron said: “When they said Sarah was missing you think of all those things you read in the newspapers or see on the TV - had she been snatched on the way to school, or just gone off somewhere?

“It was awful. She never misses school, but we just didn't know what to think.”

Mr Tomkins said after registers were taken the school did everything possible to check the recorded absences before the text and voice messages were sent to parents, but on this occasion it was an unfortunate human error.

“We feel it is an advantage to have a system and get a message to parents - unlike 99 per cent of secondary schools where no message is received - rather than parents don't get a call and then son or daughter doesn't come home or they do not realise their child was not in school,” he said.

“School attendance has improved since we introduced the system.”

Ministers today announced a major expansion of the government's latest crackdown on truancy after schools reported thousands more “serial truants” refusing to turn up to class - a 10pc rise nationally.

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