The educational achievements of looked-after children in Scotland have improved dramatically in recent years, new figures show.
However, their improvement in school attendance has stalled and they are still much more likely to be excluded than other pupils, Scottish government figures show.
The percentage of looked-after children who achieved a National 5 or equivalent (the level below Higher in Scotland and broadly equivalent to a good GCSE in England) increased from 15 per cent in 2009-10 to 44 per cent in 2016-17.
The proportions of looked-after school leavers achieving all levels of qualification have improved since 2009-10. They continue to have lower attainment than other leavers, but the gap has closed markedly.
While looked-after children are less likely to be in “positive destinations” nine months after leaving school than all leavers, that gap narrowed from 45 percentage points in 2009-10 to 17 percentage points in 2016-17.
However, while school attendance of looked-after children has improved since 2009-10, improvement has stalled and it is still below that of all pupils.
The exclusion rate for looked-after children has nearly halved, although the rate is still much higher than for the general school population.
'Stability of relationships'
Sara Lurie, director of The Fostering Network in Scotland, said: “We are very pleased to see how much the gap in educational outcomes has closed over the last few years. There is still, of course, work to be done but these figures really are moving in the right direction and reflect years of targeted hard work by looked-after young people, foster carers, social worker and educationalists.”
She added that the figures show that looked-after children with the most positive outcomes are in foster care, and that “stability of relationships is absolutely crucial to every aspect of their development – not just their educational outcomes”.
The Fostering Network in Scotland also called for a reduction in school moves experienced by looked-after children, and highlighted that the exclusion rate for these children remains “much higher” than for other children.
In an article for Tes Scotland last week, North Ayrshire councillor Robert Foster said that children in Scotland's care system were "routinely let down by the services that are supposed to support them".
The charity Who Cares? Scotland was earlier this month named UK Charity of the Year and, at the time, it said there was a “nationwide consensus” that the life chances of the 15,000 children in care in Scotland “could and should be better, especially when compared to other children and young people”.