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Who will protect pupils' interests?

Barnardo's echoes your welcome of Ruth Kelly's pronouncement about children in care ("A welcome first step, Ms Kelly", TES, March 17). However, we are worried that the commitment to guarantee such children a place at their first choice of school could be more spin than substance.

It is unlikely that an individual child will have much say in which school they are nominated for and it is clear that local authorities - the "corporate parent" - do not fight for the rights of looked-after children as other parents do.

We believe that there should be a statutory duty on authorities and schools to assess the educational needs of all looked-after children and ensure that they are guaranteed a place in the most supportive and appropriate school. It is also unacceptable that targets for the attainment of children in care are lower than for other children - they should be the same.

If Ms Kelly is serious about helping looked-after children she should ensure that these duties are enshrined in law in an amendment to the education Bill.

Pam Hibbert

Principal policy officer

Barnardo's

Tanners Lane, Barkingside

Ilford, Essex

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