During a debate in Parliament on 19 June, Conservative MP Bob Seely stated that 100,000 “ghost kids” had “disappeared off the [school] rolls” following school closures during the pandemic.
As Full Fact pointed out, describing the 100,000 figure in this way is misleading because it does not actually relate to the number of children who left school during the pandemic school closures, but rather the number of children in England who missed at least half of their possible school sessions in the 2020 Autumn term.
A spokesperson for Bob Seely told Full Fact that the MP got the figure of 100,000 from the Children’s commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza.
Full Fact noted that they previously wrote to Mr Seely in February 2022, after he used the same figure, to inform him that Ms de Souza’s figure was incorrect.
As Full Fact concluded: “While the rate of severe absence in schools has increased significantly compared to pre-pandemic levels, this figure does not tell us anything about the number of pupils who left school during the pandemic and never returned. The figure is based on the number of children in England who missed at least half of their sessions in Autumn 2020.”
Bob Seely knew this. Full Fact wrote to the MP to inform him that the figure he used was incorrect in February 2022, over a year before.
Mr Seely does not appear to have corrected his false statement.
We emailed Mr Seely’s parliamentary office offering him the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply.