Only a tiny fraction of vulnerable children in England are taking up the emergency school places kept open for them, official figures show. This has prompted concerns “at risk” children are facing increased danger in the lockdown, while schools and teachers struggle to get hold of them.
New data shows only a maximum of 5% of the most needy children have been at school during the Coronavirus crisis. The Children’s Commissioner says social workers should be “knocking on doors”. The Department for Education data shows just 29,000 so-called vulnerable children attended school in the week before the Easter holidays.
This compares to the more than 723,000 children who were known to children’s social care services in 2019. The figures were described as “utterly shocking” by the Liberal Democrats. But children’s minister Vicky Ford said children who were not in school were being monitored by social workers and supported in other ways.
Anne Longfield England’s Children’s Commissioner said: “What we now know is, what we’ve been hearing over the last few weeks, that the vast majority of vulnerable children in this country are not attending, despite the fact that schools are open. “What that means is that they are at home, potentially with a cocktail of risks. They may be in homes with quite fragile environments, potentially domestic violence in the home – which we know is increasing, parents with drug and alcohol addictions or indeed severe mental health conditions. “So often these children are quite invisible at home and not in the place which is best at keeping them safe – school.”