Funding to support the education of children in care will more than double from next year with a boost to the Pupil Premium in England, it has been announced.
Until now, children in care have attracted the same rate of funding as children from low income families - £900 a year - but from next April that will increase to £1,900. Also, the money will be paid as soon as children go into care, instead of having to wait for six months.
An extra 10,000 vulnerable children will benefit, bringing the total to more than 50,000. Total funding will increase from £40 million in 2013-14 to £100 million in 2014-15, the government said.
Statistics show that children in care perform significantly worse at school than their peers. In 2012, 50 per cent achieved the expected level in English and maths at the age of 11, compared with 79 per cent of non-looked after children. Just 15 per cent achieved five A*-C GCSEs, including English and maths, compared with 58 per cent of non-looked after children.
Edward Timpson, minister for children and families, said: “Children in care face unique challenges at school and often struggle to keep up with their peers at both primary and secondary level.
“It’s vital that these vulnerable children are given the targeted support they need and the education they deserve to help them get on in life.”
In future every council will have to employ a ‘Virtual School Head’ to champion the education of children in care. Under the plans announced today, this role will include working with schools to ensure that the Pupil Premium Plus money for children in care is being best spent.
The announcement has been welcomed by children’s campaigners.
Jane Evans, senior research and policy officer at children’s charity Barnardo’s, said: “If used in a carefully targeted way and managed correctly this funding will help children in care improve their outcomes and give them extra opportunities they haven’t been able to enjoy before.”
Tom Rahilly, NSPCC lead for looked after children, said schools should use the money flexibly to address the reasons why children in care underperform.
“For many children the best way to address underperformance may be through provision of therapeutic support, and schools should work with the local authorities to ensure the needs of the child are met,” he said.