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Nearly a thousand children in care repeatedly forced to move school

The Centre for Social Justice collects data from 124 local authorities

Almost a thousand children in care have attended three or more schools within a single academic year, according to new figures obtained by the Centre for Social Justice. The CSJ says that the data shows shocking instability for hundreds of vulnerable young people across England.

In some local authorities, nearly one in ten children in care moved schools on average once a term or more, with some students attending five schools or more in one academic year. Among students in their critical GCSE year, more than 10 per cent of students in the worst five local authority areas moved schools on average once a term or more, with almost a third of students attending three schools in their GCSE year in Milton Keynes.

Alex Burghart, Policy Director of the CSJ, commented:

"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."

As laid out in its January report, Finding Their Feet, the CSJ recommends the wider adoption of 'scorecards' to clearly set out outcomes for children in care in each local authority. The indicators laid out in the report include prevalence of early and repeat parenthood; the number able to 'stay put' with foster carers after their 18th birthdays, the number going on to apprenticeships and higher education, the number of schools children have been to (particularly in crucial exam years), the number of foster carers they have had, and the number of social workers.

By reporting outcomes in a clear, transparent way, the CSJ argues that councillors in these local authorities can build up an accurate picture about whether care leaders are meeting the needs of these vulnerable, young people.

A disrupted education adds to the series of challenges faced by children in care. Despite representing less than one per cent of young people, care leavers make up one quarter (24 per cent) of the adult prison population, 11 per cent of young homeless people and 70 per cent of sex workers. Those leaving the care system are now twice as likely not to be in education, employment or training (NEET) at the age of 19 than the rest of the population, while more than half of care leavers struggle to secure somewhere safe to live when they leave care.

Anne Longfield, Children's Commissioner for England, said:

"High quality, stable placements and support are critical to ensuring children in care have the best outcomes in life. It is deeply worrying but perhaps, not surprising, that the Centre for Social Justice found that over 1,000 children in care attended three or more schools in a single academic year.

"Our own State of the Nation report on children in care and care leavers published earlier this month found that 39.6% had moved placements between one and three times over the previous two years. Many placement moves will also involve a child moving to another school.  Sometimes placements break down and there is a need for a child to move to other care arrangements but when this happens, much more must be done to maintain their schooling so that their education is not disrupted."

For the data collected by the CSJ, please click here.