Skip to main content

Assessment: Low exam targets for looked-after children

DCSF accuses local authorities of lack of expectation and failure to raise exam performance

DCSF accuses local authorities of lack of expectation and failure to raise exam performance

Original paper headline: Low ambitions for looked-after children

The government has accused local authorities of not setting high enough results targets for looked-after children.

Civil servants say they should aim for more 11-year-olds reaching level 4 in English.

Looked-after children do not perform as well at school as their peers, with 14 per cent achieving five good GCSEs in 2008 against a national average of 65 per cent. The 2010 target is 20 per cent.

Authorities predict that 52 per cent of looked-after 11-year-olds will reach level 4 in 2010 against 46 per cent last year.

The Government wants 56.6 per cent of looked-after children to achieve level 4 in English next year and 60 per cent by 2011.

Writing to authorities, Sue Hackman, chief adviser on school standards, and Sheila Scales, director of the early-years, extended schools and special needs group, say: "It is evident from the KS2 English targets set over the last two years that there has been a flattening off of ambition."

Authorities must review plans for delivering the best for these children, they add. These include a virtual headteacher (see box), designated teachers, one-to-one tuition and the Booktrust charity's Letterbox Club literacy scheme.

Authorities have set targets for looked-after 11-year-olds reaching level 4 in maths, and for 16-year-olds achieving five good GCSEs in line with national targets.

Clare Tickell, Action for Children chief executive, said: "We must hold the same ambition for looked-after children as we do for their peers. They often start at a disadvantage and we must fill the deficit - grades can be improved with support such as one-to-one tuition. Ambitious targets need to be driven by a clear strategy that sees schools and carers working together so they can reach their full potential."

The Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "We expect authorities to set ambitious, realistic targets for all children."

Virtual champion

Children in 11 authorities who piloted a virtual headteacher have outperformed their peers, research has found.

Analysts at Bristol University pointed to the study's limitations - the small numbers involved - but added: "Our research provides a clear endorsement of the need in local authorities for a senior figure to champion the education of looked-after children."

Each authority received pound;70,000 per year for the two-year project.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you