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More help for looked-after kids

Looked-after children in 10 authorities are to benefit from more than pound;2 million from the Scottish Executive to boost their learning.

The allocation of money to a range of pilot projects is the second tranche from a total of pound;6 million announced in October 2004 to support initiatives aimed at removing barriers and improving the educational outcomes for looked-after children.

When the funding was announced in 2004, the executive said it wanted to ensure that the 12,000 children in care in Scotland received the same educational opportunities as their peers.

This particular group has consistently attained poorly in schools, with 60 per cent of 16-17s who left care in 2003-04 not achieving any Standard grades compared with fewer than 10 per cent for Scotland as a whole.

The figures also show that around 60 per cent of young people leaving care were not in education, employment or training (the NEET group), compared to 14 per cent of all 16-19s. Looked-after children are more likely to be excluded from school - 227 cases for every 1,000 pupils, in contrast to 50 per 1,000 pupils overall.

The successful projects in this round of funding include:

* Online learning opportunities for looked-after children provided by Banff and Buchan College.

* The establishment of a fund to support learning and the creation of a 24-hour curriculum for youngsters in Dumfries and Galloway.

* The development of the Kick It Kick Off (Kiko) project in Dundee which provides day programmes, after-school clubs and holiday programmes; based at Dundee Football Club, it is run by Dundee City Council's education and social work departments and Dundee FC, and is supported by the city's leisure and communities department and Tayside Police.

* The creation of a team of learning assistants to support children in the primary to secondary transition stage in Edinburgh.

* Providing additional teacher support for pre-school and primary school children in Renfrewshire who are looked after at home and who have been identified as having difficulties in accessing education for different reasons.

* Providing a flexible curriculum in two West Lothian primary schools with significant numbers of looked-after children.

Ministers have repeatedly called on education authorities and the voluntary sector to raise their game in improving the lot of looked-after children, and the Prime Minister admitted two weeks ago that his policies had failed to do enough for them.

The TESTESS Time to Care campaign launched a manifesto in April which called for children in care to be given the right to private tuition to help them prepare for exams, extra resources for the schools which teach them and improved pay and training for foster carers.

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