Terri White investigates why children are missing from school

Terri White investigates why children are missing from school

BBC Radio 5 Live has announced a new podcast series which explores how lockdown exposed cracks in the system designed to protect vulnerable children.

Hosted by journalist (The Sunday Times, The Guardian, New Statesman) and former Empire magazine editor, Terri White – herself, a survivor of child abuse – the series was developed in response to the murder of Arthur Labinjo-Hughes’ in 2020, when he was kept out of school as well, as the revelation that up to 100,000 children dropped off England’s school registers in lockdown.*

‘Unravelled’ follows Terri as she goes back to her hometown of Chesterfield after receiving a letter from her own primary school teacher who helped her through her traumatic childhood. Driven by the ghosts of her past, Terri sets out to find out why so many children are still missing from education, with some enduring the same kind of upbringing she survived.

Terri says: “The shock and devastation of Arthur’s murder has stayed with us all. No child should ever have to suffer in the way that he did. My safe place was always school. It was a place of protection and sanctuary, a place where I mattered, where all kids do. So I was shocked and concerned by the statistics on ‘ghost children’. Up to 100,000 kids who’ve just fallen out of the education system. How many of these kids are now at risk? Is the system failing them – and if so, why. And perhaps most vitally, what can be done to keep them safe?”

Over the course of six months, Terri looks at her own social services records, reconnects with her old teacher and heads to Barrow to meet Caroline, a primary school head who goes out of her way to get children back into education. Terri also speaks to experts and those on the frontline of child protection including social workers, the Children’s Commissioner and senior figures within safeguarding and children’s services.

Jonathan Crawford, Head of News at BBC Radio 5 Live, says: “The story of Arthur’s death affected our audience in many ways, and we as a station, want to highlight the hard-hitting and very real problem of child abuse in this country. We are pleased to have Terri White on board to help us do this. Not only is she a brilliantly talented journalist, but she will also bring her personal experience to this series.”

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.

Notes to Editors:

*Statistics taken from page 5 of this 2022 report from The Centre of Social Justice:

Last year, the CSJ revealed that 93,500 so-called “ghost children” were missing almost entirely from the school system.1 When schools reopened in Autumn 2020, the number of pupils who were severely absent from school (missing 50 per cent or more of possible sessions) had dramatically increased by 33,000 children. This equated to an increase of 54.7 per cent compared to the previous year. We can now reveal that on top of the cohort of ghost children in mainstream and special schools, a further 6,000 children in alternative provision schools were severely absent in Autumn 2020.

BBC Radio 5 Live

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