England’s children’s commissioner says she will “go out and find” those not on school rolls.
An inquiry is being launched into children who are not attending school in the wake of national lockdowns, the children’s commissioner for England has said.
Dame Rachel de Souza said between 80,000 and 100,000 children were not on any school rolls at all.
“Literally, I am going to go out and find them,” she told BBC News.
The Department for Education (DfE) said its “top priority” was supporting children to attend school and college.
Dame Rachel told BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme about 95% of children were usually in school at this time of year – but now, this figure was about 87%.
Some absences were down to illness and Covid, she said, but other children had simply failed to return following classroom closures during the pandemic.
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Some may have problems with anxiety and bullying, Dame Rachel said.
Others were “not even on any school roll” – and she would “go out and find them”.
“I am going to use the police, or the local safeguarding boards,” she said.
“We are going to find the children because I want to talk to them to ask them what’s going on and get them in.”
Dame Rachel, a former head teacher, said she was worried vulnerable children could fall into criminality.
School was the best place to keep children safe, she said, referring to the case of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes, who was tortured and killed by his father and stepmother during the first national lockdown.
A serious case review was launched into circumstances around the six-year-old’s death, after it emerged social workers had visited the house in the months before he died and found no cause for concern.
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Dame Rachel also said she had received commitment from Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi to create a national database to see attendance data in real time.
“I know, and the DfE knows, how many – what percentage – of children are in school on a day-to-day basis, morning and afternoon session,” she said.
“We don’t know nationally if it’s the same children as yesterday – and that’s the problem.”
Dame Rachel said she had written to local authorities and safeguarding boards across England and was meeting with representatives from 10 local authorities on Wednesday.
“When I asked the 10 local authorities to send me very simple data [such as] how many children have you got in your area, how many children are not on roll, how many children are waiting for school places, they could not all give me that answer,” she said.
“I cannot believe that we can’t actually manage to find every child in this country.”
A DfE spokeswoman welcomed Dame Rachel’s support.
“Our top priority continues to be supporting all children to attend school or college,” she said.
National leaders were part of an “attendance alliance” aiming to “spread best practice [to] improve attendance right across the country”, the spokeswoman said.
“They will be responsible for making sure everyone working on the ground with children, as a teacher, football coach, mental-health worker or in any other role, has the tools and resources they need to break down barriers to children attending school,” she said.
“We welcome the children’s commissioner’s support with this work and will continue to prioritise taking action to make sure children have the opportunity to spend time in class with inspirational teachers and good friends – simply because it is the single most powerful tool at our disposal to make sure every child fulfils their potential.”
Source: Covid in schools: Inquiry launched to find 100,000 pupils absent in England – BBC News
The post Covid in schools: Inquiry launched to find 100,000 pupils absent in England first appeared on Education News.