A CHILDREN'S charity is to publish a practical guide on ways to reduce the number of young people leaving local authority care with no qualifications, following the publication of new figures showing that only a third achieve exam passes.
Barnardo's, which works with disadvantaged children, has identified a lack of communication between schools and social services departments, assumptions that looked-after children are of limited ability and a lack of space and facilities for homework in residential homes as major problems.
The charity is to publish a review of research on the issue and is seeking young people's views. It has also sent a questionnaire to social services and education departments asking them to share ideas which have worked well in their own areas.
Roger Singleton, Barnardo's chief executive, said: "The educational outcomes for children looked after by local authorities are currently very grim indeed. The discrimination and stigmatisation they face are certainly not helped by such low expectations being perpetuated.
"We would like to see the Government setting targets for the educational achievement of looked-after children which are at least the same as the current achievements of comparable groups of children and young people."
The TES is backing the Barnardo's campaign to improve the educaion of some of the nation's most vulnerable children.
New performance indicators, which map how well social services departments carry out their responsibilities, were published last week. They show that only 30 per cent of children looked after by a local authority attain at least one GCSE or GNVQ. It is the first year such data have been collected.
The Government has set targets specifying 50 per cent of looked-after young people leaving school with a qualification by next year and 75 per cent by 20023.
It is feared the targets will not be met.
John Hutton, health minister, said: "There is now clear evidence that social services are getting better and that standards are on the way up. But the educational attainment of care-leavers is disappointing with only 30 per cent achieving one or more GCSE or GNVQ.
"Councils must help looked-after children to succeed in school so more opportunities are available to them as adults and progress must be made in this area."
He has written to local authority chief executives telling them he wants to see immediate improvements.
From next year the education of looked-after children will be subjected to greater scrutiny.
Figures will be collected from 2001 on absences from school and from 2002 on the further education, training and employment of care-leavers.
Indicators of the health of looked-after children will also be collected from next year.