Sixty Second Interview – Maxine Wrigley
In June 2004, A National Voice conducted a survey of over 110 care experienced young people, aged 8-22. The aim of the survey was to identify the top issues facing young people from care. Education and Qualifications topped the poll, so A National Voice decided to make this the theme of our new survey, ‘Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?’. A full copy of this report will be available from A National Voice in Summer 2006. The breakdown of the 218 young people we surveyed is as follows: 42% male, 58% female; 27% aged 13-15 years, 50% aged 16-18 years and 23% aged 19-23 years. They came from Children’s Homes, Foster Care, Supported Accommodation or were living independently.
The following figures provided us extra impetus to make this issue a priority: 56% of young people in care obtain one GCSE A*-C grade compared to 96% of young people not looked after. 40% of young people in care obtain five GCSE’s A*-G grade compared to 89% of young people not looked after. 9.4% of young people in care obtain five GCSE’s A*-C grade compared to 54% of young people not looked after.
What are the main barriers to improving the performance of looked-after children in school?
We collated the following information from our ‘Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?’ report. We called the report this as we asked over 100 young people in care what their priorities were and the most popular answer was that they wanted more education.
The responses from our survey varied between males and females. Males felt that moving around too much and the emotional and psychological effects of their personal lives were the main hindrances to their educational performance. A lack of educational choices is also a problem. Both males and females feel “labelled” because they were in care, while males also do not feel as if they have enough support from their schools and teachers.
Females also feel that the emotional and psychological effects of their personal lives cause a barrier, but more felt that a lack of self belief was a more important problem. Females in care also feel as if they have missed out on too much, educationally, to go back.
What have been the key factors in improvements in their performance?
Young people in care have found that educational support has helped them to improve their academic performance. Support and encouragement from their carers have also been important factors and need to remain a priority if their improvement is to continue. Finally, placement and school stability is needed to help looked after children succeed in school. Young people in care are often moved from one placement to another but it is a great help to them to stay in the same school, if possible. Continuously moving from one school to another can be very disruptive to a young person’s education, as it is hard for them to feel settled.
The government is working on a green paper on looked-after children. What measures on educational achievement should it include?
More educational support is needed, both in and out of school, and looked after children need more financial support than they are currently receiving. If they are to continue to succeed, young people need greater stability and need to have more of a say about educational decisions made for them. Finally, carers need more support and training to get the best possible outcomes for the children in their care. It is clear from the “poor” results of many looked after children that more one to one tuition is required.
What are the aims of your campaign about education and looked-after children?
With our ‘Please Sir, Can I Have Some More?’ campaign, we aim to promote awareness of the disproportionate level of academic underachievement of young people in care, using information and opinions provided by the young people themselves. We hope that this will encourage local authorities to give better training to foster carers, teachers and social workers, resulting in a higher standard of education for the 60,000 young people currently in care. If they are to succeed on the level of those not in care they need equal access and support.
A National Voice has conducted some research on looked after children and education due to be published soon. What have been the main findings?
We have found that young people in care do not feel as if they are being afforded the same opportunities as those not in care. To have an equal level of academic achievement, these young people feel that they need more support from local authorities, carers and teachers. They also need greater stability, positive role models and self-belief.