Social Care: 'Education poverty gap' gets wider

By Sarah Cooper

| 11 September 2007

The gulf between the GCSE results of looked-after children and children as a whole is growing, creating an "education poverty gap", according to the shadow children's minister.

Conservative MP Tim Loughton has sought to compare the educational achievement gap between children in care and the general population. He found since 2001 the gap between looked-after children and all children achieving five GCSEs at grades A* to C had widened by seven per cent.

Figures from the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) show in 2001, eight per cent of looked-after children achieved GCSEs at A* to C, while all children achieved 48 per cent, a 40 per cent difference. But in 2006, while 59 per cent of children in the general population achieved the same grades, only 12 per cent of children in care did - a difference of 47 per cent.

"Education is key to improving the outcomes of children in care yet they are failing to receive the support they need to succeed at school," said Loughton, who wanted to establish the extent of difference in looked-after children's achievement ahead of the forthcoming Children in Care Bill. He told CYP Now that if these children are moved between schools then it was not a surprise they were not achieving better GCSE results.

Kevin Williams, chief executive of The Adolescent and Children's Trust, said exam aspirations for children in care are too low although they are no less able to achieve academically than their peers. "The marginal improvements in GCSE attainment and the widening gap puts to shame the promises made by the government to address this area of inequality," he said. "There are no excuses for allowing such an inequality of opportunity in education to exist for children in care."

The DCSF set out its plans for improving looked-after children's educational achievements in the Care Matters: Time for Change white paper. A spokesman said: "We recognise that much more must be done to improve the education of children in care."

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