End neglect of children in care

18th July 2003 at 01:00
You report that government-funded research has discovered the education of children in care is organised for the benefit of their carers rather than the young people themselves ("Needs of pupils in care ignored", TES, July 4).

I am a teacher who has spent most of his 28 years of work helping children in care. I am therefore as culpable as most others who have worked to provide a service.

Stories like yours come as no surprise to people who spend time listening to children and young people who are cared for by the local authorities.

The minority tell of wonderful carers, social workers and teachers who have helped them maximise their potential, but most tell of their despair. Why is it that we cannot replicate the performance of the best?

The answer must be to tackle the vested self-interest that predominates. We must recruit and retain people who have the knowledge and skills to meet these youngsters' unmet needs, people willing to learn and attune to a diversity of pupils and contexts. Leaders with moral courage who are willing to change the local authority culture that dominates, and managers who are serious about changing performance.

Any other service that so clearly failed to meet the customer's requirements would no longer exist. Why is it that no one professionally or politically reaches positions of power if they have a determination to tackle this self-interest? The answer is obvious, that to achieve such power you must share the view of the vested interest rather than the child or young person who has no vote and little individual or collective voice.

Why does the Government fund research like that on which your story is based if it is not willing to act?

We do not require more money. We require leaders, managers and practitioners willing radically to improve their performance to match the best and go beyond the best currently provided. And we need a media willing to be more rigorous in holding us to account.

Paul Luckock, Teacher Support and development team, Children in Care, Woodford Lodge Professional Centre, Woodford Lane West, Winsford, Cheshire

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