‘National disaster’ of 100,000 ghost pupils absent from schools | UK | News

There are now more than 100,000 pupils who are absent from the classroom more than they are in school.

Almost 800 schools have a class of pupils missing every day since the first lockdown.

The Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) shows that in about half of all local authorities in England, at least 500 “ghost children” are regularly missing class.

Robert Halfon MP, chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee, said: “This is nothing short of a national disaster.

“The findings of this report highlight the calamitous impact school closures have had and demonstrate a real social injustice in our education system.

“We cannot allow 100,000 so-called ‘ghost children’ to be lost to the system or destroy their life chances in this manner.”

He added: “The Department for Education must make a choice. Do we care about these children or not?

“Education must not be a ‘survival of the fittest’, but instead, it must look after the most vulnerable in society.”

Schools with the most disadvantaged intakes are 10 times more likely to have a class of absent children than the most affluent.

For children on free school meals, the rate of absence is 3.4 times higher than those not on free meals.

Analysis of Department for Education figures by the CSJ found that 93,514 pupils were mostly absent between September and December 2020. But, given further restrictions caused by the pandemic, the figure is likely to have climbed above 100,000 since then.

Alice Wilcock, head of education at the CSJ, said: “Ninety percent of young offenders sentenced to custody have a previous record of being persistently absent from school.”

School-Home support – which works to get children back into school – found that its practitioner workload increase by 38 percent in the 2020/21 academic year.

The education charity received 272 safeguarding alerts in the year 2020/21 compared with 85 in 2019/20.

Last night, a spokesman for the Department for Education said: “We are committed to a registration system for children not in school to help make sure all children are receiving a good education.”

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