The five-part series titled Terri White: Finding Britain’s Ghost Children explores how lockdown exposed cracks in the system designed to protect vulnerable children, exactly three years after the UK’s schools closed at the height of the pandemic.
Hosted by journalist and former Empire magazine editor, Terri White – herself, a survivor of child abuse, the series sees her go around the country investigating where the children missing from our schools are. She not only reunited with her own school teacher, but spent time with a head teacher going above and beyond to get her pupils back into school, and spoke to experts and those on the frontline of education and social care.
Speaking about the motivation for creating the podcast, Terri said: “This podcast is a collision of my personal experience and my journalism. I know just how important school can be to keeping kids safe, and after hearing about children being missing from school post-pandemic, and especially after the devastating death of Arthur, I knew this was something that needed investigating.”
Terri also speaks openly about her past and upbringing in the podcast, she says: “I grew up in a little village six miles away from Chesterfield in a council house with my mum. My mum was married a few times. The relationship between my mum and dad was incredibly difficult. He was violent. I was sexually abused when I was around five by one of my mum’s partners. A few years after that we ended up in a women’s refuge. That all happened within the space of about five years…so I’d latched on to education, because that always seemed to me to be the most straightforward way to be independent.”
Listeners will hear Terri head back to Chesterfield to visit her old primary school teacher Mrs Webley, who helped get her through her traumatic childhood.
Terri adds: “School was so important to me. I knew it was a place that I could be safe, that I could do good work, that even if I didn’t know how, I figured it would help me get to a life that was more stable and safe.”
The podcast also hears from Bernie, Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ cousin who describes him as a happy child but couldn’t hold back her tears when discussing the torment he went through, he says: “He loved learning, loved his friends, was very sociable. If there was a child that wasn’t included or felt excluded for some reason Arthur would always be the child to go over and approach them and try and bring them into the fold. He was a walking angel.
“Regardless of the outcome and the situation of what happened to Arthur, what devastates me more is the amount of time he endured it, how he physically would’ve broke down, what he was thinking and how he must have felt in those moments. And we can’t have other children experiencing that.”
Jonathan Crawford, Head of News at BBC Radio 5 Live, says: “This podcast is a culmination of Terri’s childhood experiences and the reality of the societal issues we live in today, with the common factor being the importance of getting children into school.
“We will be covering the podcast and it’s very real life issues across our news programmes on BBC Radio 5 Live, with the podcast culminating with a live debate involving experts and key decision makers.”
The first of the weekly episodes will be available to hear on Wednesday 22 March on BBC Sounds.
The podcast series is produced by Sophie Donnelly and Dan Maudsley, the editor is Anna Stewart. It was commissioned by Richard Maddock for BBC Radio 5 Live and BBC Sounds.
BBC Radio 5 Live