The Children’s Commissioner has said that some young people in care are being failed and allowed to become “invisible” to the services that should be supporting them.
More than 1,000 school children in England who had been in care for at least four weeks by March last year were missing from school, research shows.
The research suggested that certain groups of vulnerable children were more likely to drop out of school, including lone children who were asylum seekers.
More than a fifth (21%) of unaccompanied children of school age (UCSA) asylum seekers were not in school as of last March.
This compared to 2% of children in non-UCSA caregiving who were not in school.
Children’s Commissioner Dame Rachel de Souza said despite the low numbers it was “even more shocking that we are allowing children in care to fail like this”.
Her office used data from 149 out of 152 local authorities in England to find that out of 50,846 school children in care for at least four weeks by March 2022, 1,363 (2.7%) were missing school.
Of this figure, 541 were not enrolled with any school or education provider, 673 were in unregistered settings, such as private tutoring or home education, and 149 were enrolled in a school but were absent 100% of the time without authorization.
Dame Rachel said: “Ensuring that children in care are at school every day and receive the education they are entitled to by law is the absolute minimum they can expect from local authorities as their ‘corporate parents’.
“He should be advocating for these kids like any other parent, as their champion first and foremost.
“The presence of these children needs to be at the top of every policy maker’s agenda – we cannot wait until they drop out of care to start trying to change their outcomes. It starts with education.
“These are not huge numbers, which makes it all the more shocking that we are allowing children in care to fail like this, becoming invisible to the many services designed to support them.
“These are kids for whom being in school is a protective measure and a chance to build positive, caring relationships.”
Other findings showed that more than two thirds (68%) of care children were not in school, 10.1% of care children who previously participated in state-funded alternative provision were not in school, only 1.5 compared to 3.6% for state-funded mainstream schools and 3.6% for state-funded special schools.
Some 5.1% of care children who previously attended a school rated inadequate by Ofsted were deprived of education, compared with 1.9% for schools rated good or excellent.
Dames Rachel’s recommendations include increasing support for children in need of access to education, updating and extending Pupil Premium Plus (dedicated funding for children in care, designed to support their education ), helping children with particular vulnerabilities to thrive in school, and increasing accountability and collaboration across the system so that vulnerable children are safe and supported.
James Bowen, assistant general secretary of the school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “While the majority of children in care attend school regularly, we should be very concerned about the small percentage who are not currently attending any school; Especially as we know that schools can provide an important layer of protection for some of our most vulnerable children.
“The reasons for pupils missing school from care are usually complex and varied, and include issues such as mental ill health as well as a sense of difference to their peers. This is exacerbated by the distance between school and care placement. Could
“The support these young people need is intense and complex.
“Schools play an important role in supporting the care of children, but they certainly cannot do this alone – where children are absent from school, it is essential that other services step in and support them.
“Central to the response to this issue must be an appropriately funded and well-resourced social care service that has the capacity to give these young people the support and care they need.”
Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “We agree with the Children’s Commissioner about the importance of regular care for all school-age children, and echo their call for a mandatory register We do. Children who are not in school. ,
She echoed calls for better funding, saying: “A decade of government austerity has resulted in cuts to council support services, while school budgets have been stretched to breaking point.
“If schools are to provide pastoral and specialist support, the care of which many children will require in order to attend school regularly, appropriate funding must be provided.”