Drive to give educational opportunities to all children. Felicity Waters reports
Children's campaigners in Wales want to see a fully-funded framework for the education of looked-after children to raise standards and promote equal opportunities.
Voices from Care Cymru (VFCC), an independent charity which represents children in the care system, has put together a strategy for education, lifelong learning and skills minister Jane Davidson, which aims to provide a more tailored approach to engage young people in education and training.
Its call for a "holistic and flexible" educational programme comes as The TES launches its six-point manifesto to improve the education of children in care (see pages 16 to 17). The manifesto demands that the 65,000 children in care in Wales and England get the same advantages in life as their peers in families, and includes a right to private tuition for GCSEs and homework help.
In Wales last year, almost two-thirds of looked-after children (251 of 397) left care without a single GCSE or equivalent qualification.
"It is recognised that looked-after children are not fulfilling their potential," said Deborah Jones, director of VFCC. "We must start looking at children and young people's situations and give them an education tailored to their needs."
VFCC believes there should be more counselling, better advocacy and on-going mentoring to help young people achieve. The charity also wants to see more vocational opportunities, as well as better communication between education officials, care-leaver teams and local colleges and training providers.
The charity says educational planning is not consistent for young people over 16, leading to many vulnerable young people slipping through the net.
It wants the Assembly government to extend support to care-leavers up to the age of 25. The TES manifesto proposes support until 21.
"Many young people will have experienced disruptions to their education and some may be too traumatised to engage in education," said Ms Jones.
"While some will be able to apply for college places, others may need help with literacy and numeracy skills."
Peter Black, chair of the Assembly's education committee, said it would be scrutinising how local authorities spend the extra pound;1 million announced by the Assembly government to support the learning of looked-after children.
"The most important thing for children in care is stability, and this money will help to achieve that," he said.
Jane Hutt, minister for children, said: "The Assembly government takes its responsibilities towards looked-after children very seriously. We want them to enjoy the same opportunities as any other child in Wales. This means helping them to achieve to the best of their ability in every aspect of their lives.
"Education is a fundamental right of every child and the Assembly government is committed to giving this to all children in care."