People count, not the cash

29th October 2004 at 01:00
If any group exemplified the pros and cons of the Executive's educational strategy, it is that most vulnerable group of youngsters who are looked after in local authority care (page four). Nobody could argue with the aspiration to "close the gap" between the haves and the have-nots. So there can be little argument with the policy.

This week's announcement of a further pound;6 million for this group, bringing the total spent on them since 2001 to pound;16 million, will no doubt be welcomed. But will it achieve the desired outcomes? The research carried out by Who Cares? Scotland has concluded that, despite all the investment, the young people involved have felt little benefit.

It is right, of course, to point to the alarming gap in attainment between those in care and their peers. But education is only part of the picture: school achievement which can give young people a rare sense of fulfilment is one thing, but there may be many greater imperatives in their lives - the consistency and quality of the care they receive "in loco parentis" being the crucial one.

The importance of teachers and other staff in improving their educational experience was the key factor identified by the young people themselves in the Who Cares? study. That matters as much as the cash.

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