Pupils in care win extra support

26th May 2006 at 01:00
Ministers adopt TES proposal to develop the skills of foster parents.

The Government has promised better training and support for foster carers just a fortnight after The TES called for action on the issue.

Beverly Hughes, the children's minister, said the move will be part of government plans to close the "unacceptable" gap between the educational achievement of children in care and their peers.

Extra support for looked-after children in school and improvements in social services will form part of the proposals to be published in a green paper before MPs go on their summer break.

The move follows last week's intervention by Tony Blair, who admitted that the Government had to do more to raise the achievement of children in care.

Official figures show that more than half of those in care leave school without a single GCSE, and just 6 per cent achieve five or more A*-C grades.

Ms Hughes told a conference in London that the poor exam performance of children in care could not be explained solely by problems in their personal lives.

"Despite our efforts in recent years, the gap between the outcomes of children who are looked after and those of other children is extremely wide - and completely unacceptable," she said.

"We are exploring how we can better support and develop the workforce - including social workers, foster carers and those working in children's homes - to ensure that children receive the care they need and the help and support they require at school."

Earlier this month, The TES launched the Time to Care Manifesto. It sets out a six-point plan for improvement, including: better training and pay for foster carers, more resources for schools that teach looked-after children, and a right to private tuition for children in care who are approaching their GCSEs in addition to their normal schooling.

Tim Loughton, Conservative spokesman on children's issues, said: "I welcome the Government's belated announcement of a review of the social care workforce (but) I do not understand why, when it has been in power nine years, it has taken it so long."

A separate report published this week warned that local authorities are failing in their role as corporate grandparents when children in care give birth. Most teenage parents felt neglected by social services, according to an 18-month study by the Fostering Network.

The 35 young people in the study complained of inadequate sex education and said social workers and foster carers had put pressure on them when they had to decide whether to continue with an unplanned pregnancy.

Most also feared that their children would be taken away from them by social services.

Ena Fry, of the Fostering Network, said: "Fostering services must get their head around the fact that they need to be good corporate grandparents.

"Children of people who have been in care are 66 times more likely to be looked after themselves. We need to break this cycle by giving young mothers and fathers in care the opportunity to learn how to be a good parent, not by taking away their babies."

* jon.slater@tes.co.uk

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