TES campaign wins better deal for looked-after pupils

22nd December 2006 at 00:00
in january, looked-after children were one of the most neglected sectors of the pupil population. By October, after consistent campaigning by The TES, they were the focus of government policy.

Time to Care, which resulted in the Government's Care Matters consultative document, has been one of The TES's most successful campaigns ever.

Launched in January, it highlighted the multiple problems faced by looked-after children. More than half leave care without a single GCSE and only 9 per cent achieve five top grades at GCSE - compared with 54 per cent nationally.

Over subsequent months, The TES revealed many of the individual hardships faced by children in care. For example, Amaryllis Mogaji, a 21-year-old care-leaver, talked about her struggle to find a job with no qualifications.

But the campaign also highlighted success stories, such as Ivor Frank, a barrister whose careers teacher had assumed that he would not able to pass exams because he was in care.

And Melody Moran, head of Brentside primary in west London, described her school ethic of "emotional literacy in action", developed in response to her own time in children's homes.

But it was not just care-leavers who supported the campaign. Within a month of its launch, Maria Eagle, then minister for young people and families, pledged to make the education of looked-after children a government priority.

Ruth Kelly, then education secretary, offered her support in March, guaranteeing looked-after children a place at their first-choice school, even if it was full. And by May, even Tony Blair was calling for improvements to the GCSE results of children in care.

The TES followed this with its six-point Time to Care manifesto. It demanded among others things, priority access to good schools and free transport to an existing school for children who move between foster homes.

And it suggested that foster carers should be paid to support young people until the age of 21.

Within five months, these demands had all become government policy. The Care Matters consultative document, published in October, also offered a Pounds 2,000 bursary to support looked-after children through higher education. These proposals were debated by delegates from around the country during a one-day Time to Care symposium, organised by The TES in November.

Speaking on the day of that conference, Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Education, said: "The TES can take credit for being part of every great reform that has taken place in a hundred years. Time to Care had a huge influence over what we have put in the green paper."

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