The government has watered down its targets for improving the
education performance of children in care following the
announcement of poor results, writes Derren
New targets include 90 per cent of care leavers sitting a GCSE
exam by 2006, which is a relaxation of a target set by the
Department of Health in 1998 that 75 per cent actually pass a GCSE
Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics have shown
that 41 per cent of children in care achieved one GCSE or GNVQ pass
last year, well short of its target of 75 per cent and 4 per cent
worse than 2001.
The numbers of children in care aged 16 attaining 5 A-C grades
in GCSEs stayed the same as last year at 5 per cent, making it
almost impossible for the government to meet the 2003-04 target of
increasing this to 15 per cent and maintaining that level until
The new target is for the proportion of children in care passing
several GCSEs to reach 15 per cent by 2006.
The government sees poor education performance as one of the key
reasons for care leavers struggling in later life – they are
more likely to be unemployed, in prison or homeless.
Health minister Jacqui Smith also unveiled revised targets that
by 2006, 11-year-old children in care achieve English and maths
results of at least 60 per cent of their peers.
It has also set an overall target of “substantially
narrowing the gap between the educational attainment and
participation of children in care and that of their peers by
Liberal Democrat social care spokesperson Paul Burstow attacked
the government for creating “ridiculous new targets that are
impossible to measure or will be unachievable”.
“This admission of failure demonstrates ministers’
hollow promises and leaves some of the most vulnerable children
woefully exposed to further letdown,” he added.
A Department of Health spokesperson said the government announced
in the spending review last year that it would review the targets
after considering work done by the social exclusion unit in this
The figures also revealed that adoptions of looked after
children increased by 25 per cent between 2000-02; those detained
under the Mental Health Act 1983 fell slightly from 26,600 in 2001
to 26,300 last year, and that there was a 10 per cent decrease from
2001 to 2002 in the number of households receiving home care