An influential government policy unit has warned that the
Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000 has failed to address the poor
educational performance of teenagers in care in its first year of
Research by the social exclusion unit (SEU) has found that, in four
out of five local authorities, children in care failed to gain the
target of one GCSE this academic year, with only a 1 per cent
improvement in the number of children achieving the national
average of five GCSEs or more.
There were green shoots of recovery with two-thirds of local
authorities showing an improvement in academic performance among
children in care. But this was offset by a slide in performance on
the part of the remaining one-third of councils.
Of particular concern was local authorities’ failure to develop a
clear model of outstanding practice in meeting the new act’s
The Children (Leaving Care) Act came into force last October. It
set out new responsibilities for local authorities to reduce the
number of children leaving care early, improve their life
opportunities, and ease the transition from care to independent
For the research, the SEUstudied the educational results of
children in care at five local authorities over the past
Presenting the interim findings at the National Leaving Care
conference in Southampton last week, Marcus Bell, SEU divisional
manager for children in care, said that if local authorities were
“cracking the problem”, results would be better.
“We haven’t found an authority that is doing everything right,” he
Bell said the research showed that too many children were still
spending long periods of time out of school and being excluded;
care placements remained unstable; and waiting times for therapy
were too long – in one council there was a 30-month delay for child
and adolescent mental health services.
Despite the disappointing results, Bell said that local authorities
had developed a greater focus on education, while social services
and education departments were working together more
“But there’s still an issue of social workers not prioritising
children’s education sufficiently,” he added.
Care leavers’ higher education struggles
New research into care leavers’ attitudes to post-compulsory
education has shown that many have problems establishing
relationships with peers and teachers and they often have lower
The Southampton University study found that care leavers feel
teachers ignore them more frequently and do not understand their
individual needs. Care leavers had difficulty in listening to
instructions, found teamwork harder, and struggled to meet people
of the same age and background.
The study also suggests that non-care leavers have higher
educational aspirations and attend courses more regularly, while
care leavers are more likely to give up courses.
– Guidance and Support for Care Leavers in Post-compulsory
Education from firstname.lastname@example.org