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Grim life of legion of 'lost ' children

Pressure is mounting for radical action to improve the education of children in care following a report this week which catalogues the hurdles which prevent them achieving at school. Instability at home, lack of support from social services and a failure to provide education for those excluded from school are all identified as barriers to achievement in a report published by the Centre for Policy Studies.

Almost one-third of children have three or more care placements during secondary school and one child was told just two days before the start of his GCSEs that he would be expected to move home in the next three weeks.

One education consultant who taught children excluded from school is quoted in the report. She said that the children appeared to have no one looking after them. "She was teaching one 11-year-old girl who was drinking vodka, having sex and smoking weed. When the child failed to turn up for a maths lesson, the consultant went in search. She found the girl "wandering round the town centre in her pyjamas, covered in blood and distraught". When she rang social services they claimed the girl was fine. Incensed, the consultant reported the case to the local MP. She recalled: "I was castigated by my line manager and abused by the MP for interfering. It is all about money."

The report, Handle With Care, comes weeks before the Government is expected to publish a green paper intended to improve the life chances of children in care.

It is the latest evidence of how these children's education has moved up the political agenda since The TES launched its Time to Care campaign in January.

Handle With Care by Harriet Sergeant: www.cps.org.uk

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