Thousands of looked-after children forced to move school at least once a year

Investigation by the Centre for Social Justice called figures 'truly shocking' and wants outcome scorecards to be introduced

Photo: Burger/Phanie/REX

Almost a thousand children in care have attended three or more schools in a single year, while more than 6,000 have moved at least once, research from the Centre for Social Justice has found.

Using figures from 2013-14, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the think-tank found 827 young people had been moved three times in an academic year and more than 6,000 had been in two schools.

In the worst offending local authorities, as many as one in 10 children were moved on average once a term or more during their GCSE year. Some students attended five schools or more in one academic year.

Care teams overstretched

It said care teams in some authorities are too overstretched to build relationships, revealing the average caseload of a personal adviser for care leavers in some areas can be as high as 49.

Alex Burghart, policy director for the Centre for Social Justice, described the figures as “truly shocking” and said they reflected “an unacceptable level of disruption to the lives of vulnerable children in care”.

The think-tank said a disrupted education adds to challenges already faced by children in care. Care leavers make up 11% of young homeless people, 24% of the adult prison population and 70% of sex workers.

Outcome scorecards

“Care leaders should want the same outcomes for children in care as they would want for their own children. This will inevitably have a terrible impact on their education and their chances of finding work when they leave,” Burghart said.

The Centre for Social Justice has called for the introduction of ‘scorecards’, which set clear outcomes for children in care in each local authority. The think-tank said councillors will then be able to build up an accurate picture about whether councils are meeting the needs of vulnerable children.

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