Cathy Jamieson, principal officer of Who Cares? Scotland, said: "While young people in care go through the process of sorting out other problems in their lives, education is always seen as a secondary issue. In the absence of positive role models, they don't realise that education is an important part of that process."
Ms Jamieson believes local authorities in Scotland make matters worse by frequent delays in allocating a school place to children who may have been excluded from another school or who may have to move from one placement to another.
Outreach teaching was not the answer, she insisted. "This is usually very limited - for only two hours a week. What is a child in a home supposed to do with their time for the rest of the week?" If outreach services were not focused on ensuring a return to mainstream education, they merely provided "a fast track to residential schools".
Ms Jamieson warned: "Decisions about moving young people to schools closer to care placements are made on the basis of costs. It saves on taxi fares. "
She also called for better support for such children, particularly in secondaries. "Finding key people who are consistent and who care about what happens to them, these things make the difference," she said.
Young people in residential care consistently reported a more negative outlook towards, and experience of, education than those in foster care.
A quarter of children in any kind of care placement included education in their future plans, but this fell to 13 per cent for those in residential care.