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27.07.15

Education for children in care ‘shockingly unstable’ – report

One thousand children in care attend three or more schools within a single academic year while 10% of students move at least once a term during their GCSE year, new figures have shown.

The report by think tank Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) revealed ‘shocking instability’ during the academic year 2013-14 for vulnerable minors across England.

In the worst local authorities, some students moved schools more than five times in one year.

Alex Bughart, policy director of the CSJ, said: “These figures are truly shocking and reveal an unacceptable level of disruption to the lives of vulnerable children in care.

“Children are taken into care in order to give them a second chance. Too often they have had a dysfunctional family life and so the care they receive should be the absolute best possible.

“Care leaders should want the same outcomes for children in care as they would want for their own children. No parent would like to see their children moving schools three or four times in a year. This will inevitably have a terrible impact on their education and their chances of finding work when they leave.”

The CSJ surveyed a total of 124 local authorities to collate data.

East Riding of Yorkshire Council showed the worst figures with a worrying 13% of students in care attending three or more schools in one year, while nearly 5% of children attended five or more schools.

Figures also showed that almost 32% of Year 11 students in care in the same local authority moved around three or more times. More than half of them were relocated at least twice.

However PSE understands that the council has questioned these figures and is still looking into local schools to determine whether they are correct.

The think tank has previously recommended the use of ‘scorecards’ to define outcomes for children in care and thus allow councillors in relevant local authorities to paint an accurate picture of whether care leaders are meeting the needs of vulnerable young people.

Today the Department for Education has launched a new 'NEET' scorecard that aims to show how well local councils are doing at getting and keeping young people in education.

Led by skills minister Nick Boles, the scorecards will rate councils’ performance in a number of areas, such as how well they are tackling children’s activity, to identify where they can improve and hold them accountable for mistakes. The scorecards will be published every summer and will cover the 16 to 19 age group.

Disrupted education is said to impact the challenges faces by children in the future. Care leavers make up 24% of the adult prison population, 11% of young homeless people and 70% of sex workers.

They are twice as likely not to be in education, employment or training by the age of 19 than the rest of the population and more than half of them struggle to secure residency. 

Some authorities also have overstretched care teams, with each personal adviser having to care for 49 young people on average – hindering their ability to build and maintain relationships with care leavers.

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