Ofsted: Pandemic’s impact on vulnerable children should be a ‘national concern’

The invisibility of vulnerable children as a result of the pandemic should be a matter of national concern, the Ofsted chief inspector will warn.

Amanda Spielman is expected to say on Tuesday that school closures during the first national lockdown had a “dramatic impact” on the number of child protection referrals made to local authorities.

Councils are now more likely to be responding to a legacy of abuse and neglect after local safeguarding partners struggled to identify children and families in need of early support and protection, according to the watchdog.

The inspectorate’s annual report is expected to highlight that, in normal times, around 20% of referrals to local authorities come from schools and early years settings as staff spot signs of abuse or neglect.

Ms Spielman will say it is imperative that all agencies work together to prioritise the most urgent cases.

Her comments come after figures last month revealed that the number of babies in England that were seriously harmed between April and October rose by a fifth, compared to the same period last year.

64 of the babies suffered non-accidental injuries – and eight of them died as a result.

A school with Covid measures put in place
A school with Covid measures put in place

Ofsted’s annual report, published on Tuesday, is also expected to raise concerns about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on children’s educational outcomes, as well as their mental and physical health.

Recent reports from the watchdog suggest that children hardest hit by nursery and school closures have regressed in basic skills and learning.

Youngsters have lapsed back into nappies and forgotten how to eat with a knife and fork, while older children now lack “stamina” in reading and writing due to the coronavirus pandemic, Ofsted found.

The inspectorate is expected to highlight on Tuesday that many children did not do their school work or did very little during closures because they did not have the technology or space to work remotely.

It is likely that learning losses have been significant and will be reflected in widening attainment gaps, the annual report will suggest.