Pupils in care still miss out

TES to relaunch campaign to urge government to step up action

Children in care are still being failed by the education system with fewer than one in 16 leaving school with five good GCSEs.

Official figures show that the Government is failing to close the achievement gap between children in care and their classmates.

Fewer than 100 young people in care get to university each year.

Children's charities blame schools' negative attitudes to such children, the care system's failure to prioritise them and pupils' personal problems for their poor performance.

More than half of the 7,500 children in care who leave school each year do so without a GCSE or equivalent qualification, latest government figures show. This compares with 96 per cent of all pupils in England who get at least one GCSE or GNVQ. More than half (55 per cent) of all pupils got at least five C grades or equivalent. In total, there are 60,900 children in care.

Al Aynsley-Green, the childen's commissioner, said: "What can be a more shaming indictment of how we have failed young people than the fact that fewer than 1 per cent of young people in care get to university?"

The situation has not improved in the past three years, despite the Government's drive to increase the proportion of children in care gaining five Cs or better at GCSE by 4 percentage points each year. Ministers want at least 15 per cent in every local authority to reach the target by 2006.

After a TES campaign in 1999 showed that two-thirds of councils did not know what children in their care had achieved in national tests there were pledges of official action. There were initial improvements, but the latest figures have prompted The TES to relaunch its campaign, which will start next year.

Barry Sheerman, chair of the education select committee, said: "I welcome this campaign. There have been improvements in the education of looked-after children, but the overall picture is still appalling. The committee had strong words about the position of looked-after children and will be checking progress as part of our inquiry into special education."

A report published in September by the NCH children's charity called for the Government to close the achievement gap between looked-after children and other pupils by 2020. It revealed that fewer than 100 children in care go to university each year.

Katie Morris, 24, went into care at the age of nine after her mother died.

This year she left Manchester Metropolitan university with a politics and sociology degree. She said: "As soon as you say you are in care, people stigmatise you. Some people seem to think that a child is in care because they have done something wrong."

Last month, Sir Cyril Taylor, chairman of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust, said that the state boarding sector could be a cost-effective way of providing for children in care.

A Department for Education and Skills spokesman said it was consulting on plans to transform outcomes for looked-after children.

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