Children and families minister Vicky Ford has disputed figures from her own department showing that less than 1 per cent of pupils are currently attending schools.
Schools have remained partially open for vulnerable children or those of key workers, but the latest figures from the Department for Education show that only around 0.9 per cent of total pupils are in attendance.
Speaking at the Commons Education Select Committee online hearing today, Ms Ford said: “The attendance numbers are actually a bit higher than that. There are differences across the country and those attendance numbers were taken before the Easter holidays.”
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However, the DfE document says the figures were recorded during the Easter holidays in the week commencing 13 April.
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Committee chair Robert Halfon MP asked Ms Ford if she was concerned at the DfE figures, which also show that only around 5 per cent of pupils at risk of abuse or neglect or with special needs who are eligible for a place are turning up.
Ms Ford said: “We are very much encouraging vulnerable children to attend school through a number of different means.
“Where the child does not attend then the school must be in contact with the child’s social worker to make sure that they are being safeguarded.”
Meanwhile, Tom Hunt, the Tory MP for Ipswich, called on the government to consider introducing a requirement for all vulnerable pupils to attend school.
He said that it seems that it is largely up to parents whether their child attends school. "Frankly, it could be the case that sometimes these parents are part of the reason why the child is vulnerable," he added.
Addressing the children's minister, Mr Hunt said: "It greatly concerns me that the number of vulnerable children who were expected to go is so far below what was anticipated.
"It does seem as though the government needs to take stock of this and potentially consider making it a requirement that all vulnerable children should be at school."
The DfE data reveals that, of the children in school on Friday last week, 24,000 were classed as vulnerable, down from 61,000 on 23 March.