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Being in care is not detrimental to children’s educational outcomes

Low educational outcomes are partly explained by pre-care experiences

A literature review , entitled What is the relationship between being in care and the educational outcomes of children?, carried out by the REES Centre at the University of Oxford, has found that there is little support for the claim that being in foster or kinship care per se is detrimental to the educational outcomes of children in care. Whilst the review found that there is a correlation between being in care and educational outcomes, this relationship is mediated by a number of individual, family and environmental risk factors.

The review, undertaken by Aoife O'Higgins, Judy Sebba and Nikki Luke, explored the relationship between educational outcomes, children's care histories and individual characteristics, and practice and policy in different areas. It was undertaken in order to examine existing research evidence that addresses the following three questions: 

Findings from the studies in the review were unequivocal: as a group, children in care lag behind their peers on a number of measures of educational attainment, including grades, literacy and numeracy test scores, attendance and exclusions. However, the strength of the relationship between being in care and educational outcomes is reduced when other individual characteristics such as gender, ethnicity and special educational needs, known to be linked to attainment, are taken into consideration. Some studies attempted to isolate the effect of care from these individual characteristics of the child which pre-date entry into care (e.g. maltreatment). These found that the attainment gap between children in care and their peers is further diminished once these factors are accounted for. However, several studies found that the gap persists.

The studies reviewed suggest that the relationship between being in care and low educational outcomes is partly explained by pre-care experiences, such as maltreatment and neglect. The difficulties faced by these young people may pre-date entry into care but even if reduced, in some studies these persisted once in care. Taken together, these findings highlight the difficulties children face prior to entry into care, the persistence of them once in care and the effect on their educational outcomes.

The research paper is here.