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‘System failings’ damage educational and employment outcomes for children in care

System-wide failings are resulting in looked-after children receiving inadequate and 'unacceptable' education, according to a report from the Commons Education Committee.

It says that just 7.2 per cent of looked-after children achieved the grade 5 'good pass' threshold in English and mathematics GCSEs, compared to 40.1 per cent of non-looked-after children; across the board, children in residential care at age 16 scored over six grades less at GCSE than those in kinship or foster care.

The report calls for local authorities to ensure all looked-after children are receiving full-time education in a school registered with the Department for Education. This is currently not happening. 9 per cent of children in children's homes are in unregulated education provision, which is not inspected by Ofsted and has no quality-assurance. A further 6 per cent of children in children's homes are not in any education, employment, or training at all. These problems are compounded by a "black hole" of data at the centre of the care system, leaving the Department blind to the full extent of children in unacceptable or non-existent education.

The Committee has called for more robust measures to ensure that schools and local authorities don't flaunt their legal duty to ensure looked-after children are in full-time education in the best possible schools. The report found that there is a "culture of impunity" enabling schools to turn away children in care. Despite being prioritised in law for places at good and outstanding schools, research by Ofsted identified that, of children in residential care attending mainstream state schools, 76 per cent attended Good or Outstanding schools, compared to 84 per cent of children nationally. The Committee has recommended that Ofsted must cap ratings for schools that block admissions for looked-after children.

For the report, click here. For a summary, click here.