Thousands of 'ghost children' who gave up on school in Covid to 'cause huge crimewave'

27 July 2023, 06:03 | Updated: 27 July 2023, 06:59

Children missing from school are more likely to commit crime
Children missing from school are more likely to commit crime. Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

Calls have been made for the government to step in to prevent a "huge crimewave" caused by young people who have given up on school since the pandemic.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Some 1.7 million children miss at least 10% of classes, with the number of children never going to school at all at 125,000, according to government figures.

Around 22% of children are classed as "persistently absent" from school in 2022/23 academic year. That has more than doubled since 2018/19, the last full year before the pandemic. Absenteeism tends to rise with age.

Lockdowns meant that children were taught remotely for much of 2020 and 2021, in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

Critics at the time and since said that this approach risked jeopardising children's health and development.

Now the think tank Centre for Social Justice is warning that nearly 9,000 children who are missing from school could turn to a life of crime.

Read more: All parents who take children on holiday in term-time to face £120 fine

Read more: Minister admits 200 child asylum-seekers are missing from UK hotels as Home Office called for crisis talks

Missing school is 'worse than getting virus' for children

The group came to this figure via government research that found that 8.7% of children who miss school persistently usually go on to offend before the age of 17, compared with 2% of children who attend school normally.

The Office for National Statistics found that 37% of persistently absent children commit crime, compared with 11% of children who attended normally.

Taking the 634,000 children who will be in Year 11 in 2024-25, an extra 8,894 pupils could go on to commit crime. More than 2,000 might involve violence.

Despite the figures, the government said it was not possible to establish a causal link between missing school and offending.

But the Centre for Social Justice called on ministers to intervene, to help these 'ghost children' and prevent a Covid-linked crimewave.

Nick Ferrari looks back on some fond school moment kids self-isolating are missing

Andy Cook, the group's chief executive, said: "Alongside stunting academic attainment, children with a history of school absence are around three times more likely to commit an offence than those who routinely attend school.

"For the sake of these children’s future — and for the safety of our streets — government must stop tinkering around the edges and accelerate the national rollout of attendance mentors, ensuring all children benefit from an education that sets them up for life," he told the Times.

Bridget Phillipson, the shadow education secretary, said: “This is a stark reminder of the dangers arising from the Conservative government’s lack of grip on our education system."

The government is trying to help schools track down missing pupils this summer with an attendance drive.

A government spokeswoman added: “We are working to prevent youth crime through our £200 million Youth Endowment Fund, which aims to give young people most at risk the opportunity to turn away from violence.”

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Florida rapper Julio Foolio has been shot dead

Florida rapper Julio Foolio shot dead during his birthday in Florida

Meg Bellamy played Kate Middleton in The Crown

The Crown star Meg Bellamy reveals trolls branded her 'too fat' to play Kate in the show

Jay Slater's father has urged people to come forward if they have any information on his son's disappearance

'Someone must know something': Jay Slater's father speaks out as search for missing son stretches into second week

Security guard who plotted to kidnap, rape and murder Holly Willoughby previously held other women against their will

Security guard who plotted to kidnap, rape and murder Holly Willoughby previously held other women against their will

Princess Diana's family home in Mayfair has gone on sale for the first time in decades

'A trophy home with royal connections': Mayfair townhouse where Diana met Dodi on sale for £11m

A shopping centre security guard from Essex, spent almost two years plotting to kidnap and kill Holly Willoughby.

'Obsessed' security guard spent almost two years 'plotting to kidnap, rape and murder' Holly Willoughby

Princess Anne has been injured by a horse

Princess Anne rushed to hospital with concussion after being kicked in the head by horse on country estate

Rishi Sunak has said he is not aware of any other candidates being investigated in the Conservative gambling scandal

Sunak says he's not being investigated in Tory betting scandal and is 'unaware of other candidates being looked at'

Lucy Letby tells retrial she never intended to harm babies in her care

Lucy Letby tells her retrial she never tried to harm any babies in her care

Frederick Allard has been jailed

Predator landlord jailed after demanding sexual favours from women in exchange for reduced rent

Jay Slater's family have shared an image of what is believed to be the last sighting of him

Spanish police issue update on missing Jay Slater after family share CCTV of mystery figure believed to be teen

A man has been rescued following a house explosion in Willington, County Durham

Explosion destroys house and leaves man seriously injured

Polish Politics And More (archives 2016-2022)

No Brexit renegotiation without free movement, warns Michel Barnier in fresh blow for Labour

Labour and the Tories are in a 'conspiracy of silence' about taxes, the IFS has warned

Next government will have to raise taxes, cut services or borrow more, IFS warn as they slam 'conspiracy of silence'

Jay Slater's family have shared an image of what is believed to be the last sighting of him

Missing Jay Slater's 'last sighting' in Tenerife: Family share CCTV of mystery figure believed to be teen

Wes Streeting has said Labour would simplify the gender transition process

Labour will 'simplify burdensome and bureaucratic' gender transition process, Wes Streeting says