Home Newcastle  The Children’s Foundation Launches Project To Support ‘Ghost Children’ Back Into Education 

 The Children’s Foundation Launches Project To Support ‘Ghost Children’ Back Into Education 

 The Children’s Foundation Launches Project To Support ‘Ghost Children’ Back Into Education 

The Children’s Foundation is addressing the regions education attendance crisis with a project designed to get ‘ghost children’ back into education.

The North East is in the midst of an education attendance crisis, with thousands of pupils, often referred to as ‘Ghost Children’, suffering from anxiety and other mental health issues which negatively affects their school attendance. Our region has the highest rate of absence for state-funded schools in England overall, the highest for both primary and secondary schools and the second highest after the East Midlands for special schools, according to figures from the Department for Education (DfE). Children are experiencing increased levels of stress, isolation and anxiety, making the prospect of returning to the classroom a daunting one, particularly for age groups going through transition periods or exams.

The Children’s Foundation exists to improve the health and well-being of children and young people in the North East by making serious stuff fun. ‘Roots to Health’ is based on the charities allotment in Newcastle, and is specifically designed for 14 – 16 year-olds to tackle the barriers that young people identify in returning to a formal education setting, and allow them to gain a formal qualification.

Through this project young people gain access to individual youth work support and informal therapy, fostering trust, openness, and building confidence in nature. The young people that join the project are not currently engaged in full-time education / training or they are young people facing barriers impacting the likely hood of them achieving formal qualifications in school. The sessions run every week and develop a young person’s ability to mix socially, make friends and learn new practical skills, whilst acquiring an accredited qualification (City & Guilds Level 1 Award in Practical Horticulture).

Sean Soulsby, CEO of The Children’s Foundation said, “With recent reports showing that 1 in 5 children are now regularly missing school, projects like Roots to Health are needed more than ever. This is a problem on which the North East needs to collaborate to solve. The Children’s Foundation was created to address the needs of children and young people in the region, and this is a growing issue that needs to be taken seriously, but we can’t do it alone.

“Every day of school matters and our region has fallen behind others in terms of school attainment and health inequalities. Our children are getting a raw deal and tackling this issue is vital to Levelling Up.

“Children and young people have told us how important it is to have a green space and a therapeutic horticulture offer and tell us that it is vital for good health and wellbeing. One of the young people involved in the project told us that if it hadn’t been for Roots to Health then they would have just been “sitting in his room”. That is some of the best feedback we can hear, and that particular young person has visibly grown in confidence over the time they have been with us. If our projects can make a difference for just a handful of the young people who are struggling to thrive in a traditional education setting, then it will be worth it.”

According to the latest School Absence Tracker published by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), the North East has the second worst record for “severe” absenteeism, with a rate of 2.32%, ahead of only Yorkshire & the Humber with 2.37%. Severe absence is defined as missing 50% or more of possible sessions – equivalent to missing every morning of school or more and disadvantaged children continue to be over-represented among those missing school, with children in receipt of free school meals three times more likely to be severely absent than their classmates. Poorer pupils are already 18 months behind their more affluent peers pre-pandemic – an attainment gap compounded by the post-pandemic attendance crisis.

A recent study from The Lancet Public Health Journal found that every year spent in school or university improves our life expectancy. The peer-reviewed research looked at the UK and the US, alongside developing countries including China and Brazil, finding that primary, secondary, and tertiary education is the equivalent of a lifetime of eating a healthy diet, lowering the risk of death by 34% compared with those with no formal education.

Sean continued, “Addressing this issue needs a combined, collaborative approach from schools, local authorities, families, and charities like ours, working together to address the unique needs of each young person and combined with an investment in mental health provisions for young people in the region.”