Government unit to examine education of children in care

    The educational achievement of children in care is to be the
    subject of a major consultation exercise by the social exclusion
    unit.

    Building on existing Quality Protects policies, the SEU is to
    look at personal education plans for all children in care,
    information sharing between schools and social services and
    designated teachers to be an advocate for children in care
    attending school.

    As well as the formal consultation, which will take in social
    services, education authorities, young people in care and
    children’s charities, the SEU project team is carrying out studies
    of six local authority areas alongside visits to projects to
    identify best practice. The final report will be published in
    2002.

    More than two thirds of children leave care at 16 with no
    qualifications at all, compared with only 6 per cent of all
    children.

    Care leavers are significantly more likely to be socially
    excluded later in life. Research shows that a quarter of all
    prisoners, and up to a third of rough sleepers, have been in
    care.

    Health minister Jacqui Smith said: “We know that doing badly at
    school has a major impact on these children’s chances later in life
    and we must do more to see that they get the same educational
    opportunities that we would expect for our own children.”

    Meanwhile, a report from children’s charity Barnardo’s calls for
    the education of children in care to be taken as seriously as other
    children.

    Better Education, Better Future notes the lack of communication
    between education and social services departments, lack of planning
    in looked-after children’s education and disruption in schooling
    when placements change.

    The report calls for residential staff to support children in
    their educational needs and urges authorities to avoid exclusions
    at school.

    Structural changes between departments are essential to improve
    communication, and there should be training available for foster
    parents, social workers and teachers to raise the awareness of
    educational issues.

    Good practice in certain authorities has been established and
    the report urges great commitment for this progress to be sustained
    and developed.

    All authorities should develop personal education plans, support
    and encourage young people to go onto higher education and provide
    transport for children to attend the same school if their placement
    changes.

    A child in care interviewed for the research said: “Social
    workers should think, ‘If this was my child, what would I want for
    them? What would I be doing to get my child a good
    education?’.”

    Better Education, Better Futures is available from 01268 520224
    and The Who Cares? Trust can be contacted on 020 7251 3117.

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