Maria Eagle, education junior minister, said she was shocked to discover that 54 per cent of looked-after children in England were put forward for only one GCSE exam.
"How can you pass an exam if you're not entered for it?" she asked a meeting of the all-party parliamentary group on children in care. "What does this say about aspirations?"
In Wales, 35 per cent of care-leavers were not entered for a single exam, as of March last year.
Children's charities NCH and Barnardo's want Westminster to scrap its target of one GCSE for children in care, arguing that it only encourages low expectations. Children outside the care system are expected to get at least five or more A*-C grades.
In Wales, the Assembly government has no national targets at all for its looked-after children, instead preferring to negotiate individual goals with local education authorities.
leader 22 What are the three things you think would improve the life of children in care? tell us at: tes.co.ukstaffroomtime_to_care