Interlinked vulnerabilities impacting children, says outgoing commissioner

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England

A child growing up in poverty is 88% more likely to have a special educational need than a young person from a wealthier background.

Delivering her final speech as Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield presented statistics linking educational and social care data, showing how they combine to determine a child’s GCSE results.

She said a child who is not in poverty, does not have special educational needs and not been involved with children’s social care, has a four in five chance of passing maths and English GCSEs. However, as soon as you add these characteristics, their ‘chances start to drop significantly’, she told a webinar.

Being in poverty, or involved with social services, brings the chance of passing down to slightly less than two in three. If the child in poverty also has special educational needs, their chances of getting basic passes falls to one in four.

Data showed if a child grows up in poverty, involved with children’s services and has special educational needs, their chance of passing falls to 13% – a seven in eight likelihood of failure.

‘These three vulnerabilities are in fact interlinked,’ she said. ‘What this means is that a child who is known to social services is three times more likely to be growing up in poverty, and twice as likely to have special educational needs.

‘Our analysis reveals that three-quarters of the children who don’t achieve these basic qualifications had at least one of these issues. But it’s when these issues combine they do the most damage to a child’s prospects.’

In January, education secretary Gavin Williamson launched an independent review that aims to radically reform children’s social care. It will aim to reshape how children interact with the care system, focusing on the process from referral through to becoming looked after.

Longfield, who has been commissioner for six years, is being replaced by Rachel de Souza.