Every school pupil to get ID number

FRESH measures aimed at protecting school pupils are to be introduced in the wake of two high-profile child murders.

Every child at a state school in Scotland is to be issued with a unique identity number to help authorities trace them if they go missing.

The move, by the Scottish Executive, follows the murder of five-year-old Danielle Reid three years ago.

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Her mother, Tracey Reid, had withdrawn her daughter from school, claiming she was moving to Manchester. But Danielle's body was later found in a suitcase that was retrieved from the Caledonian Canal in Inverness.

She had been murdered by Lee Gaytor, her mother's boyfriend, who was jailed for life in 2003. Reid was jailed for eight years for helping to dispose of the youngster's body.

It also emerged yesterday that councillors in West Lothian are set to approve the introduction of a text-messaging service to alert parents if their children do not turn up at school. Council officials have recommended the introduction of the scheme following an inquiry into last August's murder of Rory Blackhall, who was killed after failing to turn up at Meldrum Primary School in Livingston.

Under the Executive's plan, every primary, secondary and special school pupil will receive a Scottish Candidate Number (SCN) to allow council officials to keep track of youngsters who move between schools and local authority areas.

Ministers say it will also help in the Children Missing Education project, which was launched last year to help find pupils who had disappeared from the education system and which so far has traced 114 young people.

Robert Brown, the deputy education minister, said: "In today's society, child protection is of the utmost importance, so it's extremely important that key pupil information can be shared quickly and effectively between authorities.

"That's why simple measures such as the SCN are so important.

"These unique numbers will improve existing procedures, helping to ensure that our children are kept safe and well."

Meanwhile, councillors in West Lothian are next week expected to approve the introduction of the text message service, known as Group Call, in all of the area's secondary, primary and special schools.

Under the new system, a message is sent to the mobile phones of parents whose children have not turned up to class.

Parents are asked if they are aware that their child has not attended school and questioned on the reason for the absence. Those parents who do not have mobile phones will receive an automated voice call, usually recorded by a headteacher.

The council is also introducing playground supervision for 20 minutes before the start of each school day at all of its primary schools .

In the Rory Blackhall case, his mother had dropped him off at school, but the alarm was not raised until seven hours later when his grandfather went to pick him up.

The boy's body was found in woodland three days later. The only suspect, Simon Harris, was found dead in his home.

Councillor John McGinty, the convener of the council's children's services committee, said: "The measures are designed to increase the safety and well-being of children and young people."