Welsh care-leavers beat English peers

1st December 2006 at 00:00
The educational achievements of looked-after children in Wales have improved significantly, and overtaken results in England.

But even so, only 32 out of 382 Welsh care-leavers (8.4 per cent) achieved five or more A*-C grade GCSE passes by March 31 this year - compared with a 53 per cent pass rate for all children.

New figures show the pass rate for five good GCSEs among Welsh care-leavers in 2005-6 doubled from just 4 per cent last year. In England this year, only 7 per cent achieved the same standard.

Around 47 per cent (43 in England) left with at least one GCSE or GNVQ, up from 37 per cent in 2004-5. And the numbers failing to sit any exam fell from more than a third to a fifth.

Meanwhile, children's charities have warned that new government measures designed to turn around the poor educational track record of looked-after children may be hindered by insufficient funds and poor information sharing between different agencies.

Mike Lewis, Children in Wales policy director, said they could lead to "real improvements", but was concerned about funding.

Between 2001-4 local authority spending on looked-after children increased by 63 per cent to pound;106.7 million. This year the Assembly announced an extra pound;1m in 2006-7 and 2007-8.

Mr Lewis said: "Though there's been a generous settlement for services for children, numbers have almost doubled in the past five years and that's not been matched.

"If there's enough support for looked-after children they can do well in school but there's this false idea they are all troublemakers.

"Some schools do really well but others think they don't have a duty to looked-after children."

Towards a Stable Life and Brighter Future seeks to improve provision for looked-after children across health, education and social services. From July, local authorities will be required to appoint an education co-ordinator to find school placements, broker additional support and support foster carers for each child.

They will also ensure each child has an "effective and high quality"

personal education plan, place a greater responsibility on authorities to transfer records between schools swiftly, and ensure a placement "meets and promotes a child's needs".

Deborah Jones, chief executive of Voices from Care Cymru, said education co-ordinators were a step forward but criticised the lack of information sharing between departments.

A Welsh Local Government Association spokesperson welcomed the regulations:

"In many authorities these measures are already in place but this legislation will give them more strength."

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