Department for Education statistics released today show that for the year ending 31 March 2017 the number of looked after children rose by 3.2 per cent in the space of 12 months.
The figures show there were 72,670 children in care in the 12 months to the end of March 2017, compared with 70,440 the year before and 69,480 in 2015.
The 3.2 per cent increase is the largest in five years, since the figure jumped from 65,510 in 2011 to 67,070 in 2012, a rise of 4.1 per cent.
In addition, the proportion of children in care has risen to the highest level on record. Currently, 62 out of every 10,000 children are in care. The figure had remained at 60 since 2013. The lowest figure in recent history was in 2008, when 54 out of every 10,000 children were in care.
Meanwhile, the number of children being placed for adoption continues to fall, with the end of March 2017 figure of 4,350 down on the previous 12 months' figure of 4,690 and markedly down on 2015's tally of 5,360.
Adoption Leadership Board figures released last month also showed a fall in the number of children being adopted as well as the number of adoption orders being granted by the courts.
The statistics published by the DfE also chart a rise in the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in care, up six per cent to 4,560 in the 12 months to the end of March 2017 from 4,300 over the same period the previous year.
Over the last five years the number of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in care has more than doubled from the 2013 figure of 1,950 and the proportion of looked-after children who are unaccompanied asylum-seekers now stands at six per cent, after being at three per cent since 2013.
It has also been revealed that the number of children leaving care has fallen for the first time since 2008. There were 31,250 children who ceased to be looked-after in the 12 months to the end of March 2017, a fall of two per cent on 2016.
Dr Carol Homden, chief executive of children's charity Coram said the rise in the number of children in care highlighted the importance of recruiting more foster carers and adopters.
"Over the last few years, many children waiting for adoption have been placed in the families they need," she said.
"What appears to be a fall [in the number of adoptions taking place] is therefore part of an underlying success. But certainly we need to do more to ensure that children have the same chances no matter where they live."
"The continued rise in the number of children who are looked-after demonstrates the need for prospective foster carers and adopters to come forward. These are the people who change the lives of this vulnerable group of children."