Government cuts education targets in wake of poor examination results

The government has watered down its targets for improving the
educational performance of children in care following the
announcement of poor results.

New targets include 90 per cent of care leavers sitting a GCSE
exam by 2006 – a relaxation of the goal set by the Department of
Health in 1998 that 75 per cent of care leavers should pass a GCSE
by 2003.

Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics published
last week show that only 41 per cent of children in care achieved
one GCSE or GNVQ pass last year, well short of the old 75 per cent
target and 4 per cent worse than in 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 Public Service
Agreement target published in 2002 of 15 per cent of care-leavers
achieving five or more A-C grades by 2004.

Health minister Jacqui Smith announced in a written answer to
the House of Commons this week that this target would now be
replaced with one stating that at least 15 per cent of young people
in care “get qualifications equivalent to GCSE’s graded A* to
C” by 2006.

Within the department’s overarching revised PSA target of
“substantially narrowing the gap between the educational attainment
and participation of children in care and that of their peers by
2006”, Smith also unveiled a target for 11-year-old children in
care to achieve English and maths results that are at least 60 per
cent as good as those of their peers by 2006.

Liberal Democrat social care spokesperson Paul Burstow has
described the new targets as “ridiculous” and said they were
“impossible to measure or will be unachievable”.

Burstow added: “This admission of failure demonstrates
ministers’ hollow promises and leaves some of the most
vulnerable children woefully exposed to further let-down,” he

A Department of Health spokesperson said the government
announced in the spending review last year that it would review the
educational attainment targets after considering work carried out
by the social exclusion unit in this area.

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