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Dramatic rise in abuse and neglect referrals from schools

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Schools have dramatically increased the number of referrals they make to social services over concerns about the abuse and neglect of their pupils, in the wake of a series of high-profile child abuse cases, TES can reveal.

Figures obtained from 46 local authorities show that almost 30,000 children were referred to safeguarding services by their schools in 2013-14, an increase of 48 per cent since 2010-11. The figure far outstripped a 19 per cent rise in referrals from other sources.

The referrals were under the headings of abuse, neglect, family dysfunction and acute family stress.

The largest increase was recorded in Wakefield, where the number of referrals more than quadrupled from 283 to 1,344 over the four-year period. At more than one in five councils, the number of cases doubled.

In the wake of horrific instances of child abuse and neglect in areas such as Rotherham and Oxfordshire, prime minister David Cameron warned last month that teachers could face up to five years in prison if they failed to report concerns about child abuse.

The research suggests that schools’ awareness of safeguarding issues has already increased dramatically since 2010. But headteachers and school staff have told TES that the rapid rise in referrals is in part owing to an apparent increase in the number of children in vulnerable situations.

Lisa Valla, headteacher of London Colney Primary and Nursery in Hertfordshire, said referrals to children’s social services had risen significantly at her school.

“As a headteacher, my job is about keeping children safe but it’s also about teaching and learning. So we’ve started to look at whether we need to employ a family worker specifically to work on the increasing number of cases we have open – and we’re a small school,” Ms Valla said.

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