A “sizeable number” of Ukrainian children who have arrived in England are still not in school, the government has admitted.
But schools and councils have been praised for their “herculean efforts” in offering almost 10,000 places for children so far, around 87 per cent of those who have applied.
The government said it would “use the data to make sure all school age children from Ukraine are getting a good education”.
For the first time, the Department for Education has published data on the number of children arriving from Ukraine, Afghanistan and Hong Kong who have applied for and been offered school places.
The government estimates that out of 11,400 applications from Ukrainian children, 9,900 school places have been offered. However, this is based on responses from 77 per cent of council, with the data adjusted for non-responses.
The DfE said 6,300 of the places offered to Ukrainian pupils were in primary schools, while 3,500 were in secondary schools.
However, the DfE admitted today that a “sizeable number of Ukrainian children who have arrived in this country have not yet applied for or been offered school places”.
Thousands of Ukrainian pupils still without school places
More than 60,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived in England since Russia’s invasion, with around one in three understood to be under the age of 18. However, this figure is for the whole of the UK and also includes under fives.
The education secretary Nadhim Zahawi previously pledged to “welcome 100,000 Ukrainian children into schools across the country”.
The DfE said there were “several reasons why a family with school age children may not have made an application immediately”.
For example, they may only have recently arrived or be doing remote learning of the Ukrainian curriculum. Some children may also have applied for further education.
The department also pointed out that in Ukraine, compulsory schooling starts at seven, “so some families may be unaware that compulsory school age starts at give in the UK”.
The Ukrainian school year also ends on June 1, so “some families may be unaware the UK school year has not yet ended”.
For children waiting for an offer, local authorities and schools “will be working on the process of finding a suitable place within 15 school days”. But these will be at different stages in the process “depending on the date of new arrivals”.
The DfE estimated that 300 Ukrainian children were still waiting for an offer 15 days after their application.
Zahawi pledges ‘herculean’ effort
Zahawi today said he “cannot praise enough the herculean effort made by schools and local authorities to support Ukrainian families fleeing from their home country, and I would urge them to keep going”.
“This data is encouraging but more importantly it shows us how we can do better for these children and ensure that all children arriving here have access to a good education.”
The DfE revealed some areas had a “higher concentration” of Ukrainian families.
For example, the 10 council areas with the highest number of offers contributed to over a quarter of the total places offered.
In areas with higher concentrations, the DfE said it was maintaining an “open dialogue, to ensure that it can understand better the pressures in those local authorities and support them to resolve any issues they may be facing”.
In areas with lower concentration, the DfE said it would “monitor whether local authorities need to scale up operations so they can quickly offer school places in-year”.
The DfE said families should apply for school places through their local council. Guidance is published online here.
“The government wants parents with children arriving from Ukraine to be able to apply for a school place and have their children start school as soon as possible, rather than waiting until the start of the new academic year in September,” the DfE added.
Today’s data also shows that of 5,500 applications made by Afghan children, 5,400 offers have been made, while 8,500 applications by children from Hong Kong has so far resulted in 8,000 offers. Again, these figures are adjusted for non-responses.