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Children in Care: Education

Question for Department for Education

UIN 70311, tabled on 7 July 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what assessment has he made of the trends in the level educational attainment of children in care at (a) GCSE, (b) A level or equivalent and (c) undergraduate degree level.

Answered on

15 July 2020

Children in care generally have lower educational attainment than other pupils.

63% of looked-after children enter care due to abuse or neglect. They often have a disrupted experience of education and this pre-care experience can have a significant impact on their attainment. Looked-after children are almost four times more likely to have a special educational need (SEN) than all children and this in part can also explain the gap in attainment compared to non-looked after children.

We expect looked-after children to be placed in good or outstanding schools. Schools must appoint a designated teacher for looked-after children and local authorities must have a Virtual School Head who is accountable for the educational attainment of all children looked-after by the local authority. We have introduced the pupil premium plus for looked-after children (£2,345 per eligible pupil and is managed by the Virtual School Head) to deliver the outcomes in each looked-after child’s personal education plan. The department’s exclusions statutory guidance is clear that the headteacher should, as far as possible, avoid permanently excluding a looked after child. The rate of permanent exclusion for looked after children was 0.14% in 2014–15. That has reduced in recent years; in 2017-2018, the rate was 0.05%. The local authority must have regard to the relevant statutory guidance when carrying out its duties in relation to the education of looked after children.

Information on the performance of children who had been looked after continuously for at least 12 months at Key Stage 4 is published in a statistical release. Due to the introduction of reformed GCSEs and the 9-1 grading scale, comparisons over a long timeframe are difficult. Table 5a shows that the percentage of children who had been looked after continuously for at least 12 months achieving the threshold in English and mathematics at grade 5 or above decreased slightly from 7.4% in 2017 to 7.2% in 2019. The publication is available here:
https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/outcomes-for-children-looked-after-by-local-authorities-31-march-2019.

Equivalent figures are not available for A levels as we do not match data collected for looked-after children with Key Stage 5 attainment data on the national pupil database.

Information on the degree qualifications of children who have been looked after is not held centrally within the department.

The Office for Students published a report that looked at the effects of different characteristics on students’ degree attainment. Annex B describes how care-experienced students have lower rates of achieving a first or upper-second class degree when compared to students who have not been in care. For qualifiers in 2018-19, the attainment rate of care experienced students was 12.1% lower than the attainment rate of students who have not been in care. The report is available here:
https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/publications/differences-in-student-outcomes-further-characteristics/.

Since 2018, we have been working with universities to encourage them to sign up to the Care Leaver Covenant and publish their offer to care leavers. The website is available here:
https://mycovenant.org.uk/offers/educational/.

We continue to work with the sector to better understand the needs of care leavers and increase their attendance and attainment.