Economists urge private tuition for children in care to close attainment gap

By Joe Lepper

| 09 November 2018

Providing children in care one-to-one tuition would help close the attainment gap with their peers and save the taxpayer £20,000 per child over 20 years, economists have calculated.

Improving GCSE results for looked-after children could save taxpayers up to £20,000 per child over a 20-year period, a report has suggested. Picture: Elenathewise AdobeStock

A study conducted by Pro Bono Economics found that commissioning extra support for children in care, on a payment-by-results basis, has the potential to address a gap in attainment with their peers and save money.

The research, commissioned by Equal Education, which offers one-to-one tuition for pupils in care, calculates that looked-after children (LAC) with poor GCSEs costs the taxpayer in the region of £72,000 over a 20-year period reviewed while a looked-after child with good GCSEs costs the taxpayer in the region of £52,000, a £20,000 saving for each looked-after child in the attainment gap.

It states that in 2016 there were 4,900 looked-after children reaching the end of Key Stage 4 in England, of which, 44 per cent attained good results in English and Maths. It calculates that if the proportion of looked-after children attaining good GCSEs was the same as for other pupils (77 per cent) then an additional 1,300 pupils would have achieved good results.


For the 1,300 looked-after children who completed their GCSEs in 2016/17 this is the equivalent of £26m in savings over 20 years.

The one-to-one tuition that is provided by Equal Education is normally funded from the pupil premium and involves matching specialist tutors in subject areas to each pupil's needs.

Paul Singh, chief executive of Equal Education, said many children make dramatic progress after receiving one-to-one tuition.

"One case we had of a young man whose school had written him off, saying that on a good day he'd get an E in his GCSEs. We took him for maths and he went on to achieve a B," Singh said.

Pro Bono Economics says that it could be at least 10 years before the financial benefits to the taxpayer of investing in one-to-one tuition for looked-after children become apparent, making it hard to build a case to councils to fund tuition programmes.

"Important educational programmes deserve to be funded, even if their economic (fiscal) impact only becomes fully evident more than 10 years later, and even if it needs to be measured across several government departments," said Pro Bono Economic chief executive Julia Grant.

"These young people, some of the most vulnerable in society, have a right to a good education, so they can go on to fulfil their potential and make their fullest contribution to society."

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