England’s Chief Inspector of schools has said that children at risk of harm had slipped out of sight during lockdown and that finding such overlooked cases should now be a priority.
Speaking on the publication of her annual report – which also raises wider concerns about the mental health and well-being of pupils beyond the pandemic – the chief inspector, Amanda Spielman, said the ‘invisibility of vulnerable children’ during the pandemic should be a ‘matter of national concern’.
The report states that children not being in school and a lack of access for health visitors has had a ‘dramatic impact’ on the number of vulnerable children being identified.
Paul Whiteman of the National Association of Head Teachers agreed, saying school leaders shared concerns about children at risk during the pandemic.
He said budgets for child support services being ‘slashed’ and ‘10 years of government neglect had left vulnerable children and families on the edge – with Covid having nudged many of them over.’
He added that schools were already under great pressure – and he called on Ofsted not to resume regular school inspections in the new year.
Geoff Barton, head of the school and colleges leaders’ union (ASCL) said, ‘schools worked very hard to reach out to families with vulnerable children and to bring these pupils into the emergency provision in schools during the first national lockdown.
‘Schools have been highly focused on addressing any problems with the wellbeing of students since full reopening in September, and they are very relieved to have vulnerable pupils back in school where they can make sure they have the support they need.’
Interestingly, orders for parental drug and alcohol testing from solicitors working with vulnerable children surged for AlphaBiolabs during lockdown.
So much so, the 87 per cent rise in demand for the company’s laboratory-based drug and alcohol testing prompted the firm to invest in £400k worth of new equipment to cater for the increase in orders.
With Covid safety measures in place, the company was able to remain operational throughout lockdown, to maintain testing services for its large client base of solicitors, local authorities, courts and child protection agencies.