Call for action on ghost children missing from education system

8 June 2022

Parliament’s Education Committee has published the Government's response to its March 2022 report, Is the Catch-Up Programme Fit for Purpose?, which warned of an “epidemic” of educational inequality exacerbated by the loss of learning caused by Covid-19 lockdowns.

Available here, the report called on the Government to prove its multi-million-pound pandemic Catch-Up Programme was working, or else cancel its contract with tutoring provider Randstad.

The Government reply to the Committee, having considered its findings and recommendations, can be found here.

It confirms that it will not be extending Randstad’s contract beyond its initial term, which expires on 31 August 2022.

This action has been warmly welcomed by the Education Committee, which also praised the decision to allow schools more autonomy over funding routes and to undertake a review of the impact of Covid-19 on SEND pupils.

However, the Committee is concerned that its warnings about persistent and severe absence have not been fully addressed. Despite its calls for “proactive measures” to help children back to school, the Government's response does not yet commit to a targeted support plan.

Suggesting that the elephant in the room remains, Committee Chairman Robert Halfon said: “According to the Children’s Commissioner, over 124,000 ‘ghost children’ have still not returned to school. It is also particularly concerning that the Centre for Social Justice reported that, before March 2022, 13,000 pupils in exam-critical years were missing from the system and the latest figures published by Education DataLab suggest that 5% of pupils were severely absent from September to May of this year.”