Almost all young people looked after by local authorities realise education is vital to their future, but many have little hope of getting one, according to the study by A National Voice, a campaign organisation run by and for young people in care.
"Not believing in myself" was given by girls as the top barrier to their educational progress, in the poll of more than 200 children in care. It was closely followed by the emotional effects of their personal life and moving home too often.
Boys most often blamed having to move around too much. They also complained about the psychological effects of their personal life and not having enough say in their education choices.
Both boys and girls said they were stereotyped at school and boys criticised the lack of support from teachers.
The report said: "Young people who move about are not able to bond or develop relationships with social workers, carers and fellow students who, aside from teachers, should probably be the most influential figures in any child's education."
More than half of all children in the South and Midlands wanted more support from school. Children looked after by local authorities in the North were more likely than those in the South or Midlands to blame having to move home too often for holding back their schooling.
Almost half of boys in care and a third of girls recognised they needed to improve attendance, behaviour and involvement in order to succeed at school.
Young people in children's homes were more likely than those in foster care to admit they needed to make improvements.
But while boys were most likely to want extra help from their teachers, girls said they wanted more support from carers, social workers and personal advisers.