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ADCS, VSHN and NCER Paper on the Educational Achievement of...

The Association of Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS), the Virtual School Heads Network (VSHN) and the National Consortium for Examination Results (NCER) today, Tuesday 1st December, publishes a paper looking at how the educational progress of children in care can be measured more accurately. The paper builds on the results of a comprehensive study published yesterday by the Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education at the University of Oxford and the University of Bristol, which found that, in general, the longer a child is in care the better their educational outcomes and that the relationship between being in care and low educational outcomes is explained, in part, by children and young people’s pre-care experiences including poverty, maltreatment and neglect rather than the care system itself.

The paper by ADCS, VSHN and NCER aims to stimulate a national debate around improving support and raising ambitions for this vulnerable cohort of children and young people. It makes a compelling argument for change by setting out a range of challenges and recommendations for local authorities, individual schools, multi-academy trusts, the DfE and Ofsted and by identifying deficiencies in the current approach in order to improve education provision and individual outcomes for children in care, to enable all parts of the care system to be held to account and to improve the dissemination of good practice.

In addition, it proposes the development of a new evidence-driven data management and analysis system which will help local authorities to take improvement action and help them, as corporate parents, to make more informed choices about schooling for individual children in care.

Debbie Barnes, Chair of the ADCS Educational Achievement Policy Committee, said:

“By measuring a child’s progress between two set points, rather than year-on-year metrics, we will be able to gauge the true impact of the care system, effectiveness of support and identify ways of improving educational outcomes for the children in our care.”

“The intention is to have the new data management system in place and operational in the new school year. This will allow schools to set challenging targets and put the right support systems in place to help each individual child to achieve better than expected progress. And also help foster carers understand the important role they play in supporting the children in their care achieve their full potential. Going forward, ADCS hopes to work the Virtual School Heads Network (VSHN), the Local Government Association (LGA), the Department for Education (DfE), Ofsted and others in the development of a nationally agreed statement of ambition for children in care.”

John Freeman CBE, Chair of the National Consortium for Examination Results, said:

“NCER welcomes this research. As a company owned by local authorities we already provide detailed analysis of examination results. We look forward to supporting local authorities’ important work with children looked after by providing evidence-based analysis about what works best, and how to improve.”

Alan Clifton, speaking on behalf of the Virtual School Heads Network, said:

“Virtual School Heads fully endorse the recommendations set out within this joint paper. The research findings from Oxford University’s Rees Centre and Bristol University suggest that children who have been in care longer usually have better educational outcomes than those who have come into care later or those who remain at home with social care support. What many of these children have in common is early experience of trauma and neglect. We welcome the recommendation of the Rees and Bristol report as well as the recent NICE guidance on attachment and trauma that research is needed into the most effective strategies schools can use to help improve the attainment and progress of children in our care, an aspiration and passionate interest of all Virtual School Heads.”

Alison O’Sullivan, President of ADCS, said:

“It is widely recognised that those who have spent time in care are more likely to experience poorer outcomes in life including being unemployed, having mental health problems, experiencing homelessness or spending time in prison. So we welcome this research from the Rees Centre for Research in Fostering and Education at the University of Oxford and the University of Bristol which will enable us to develop our understanding of the educational experiences of children in our care but also contributes towards ensuring that both the care and education system is built around the individual needs of these vulnerable children. The Association is committed to doing the best we can to promote better educational outcomes for all children and young people in our care because every child deserves our utmost effort especially those who have had difficult early life experiences and often rely on us the most. By developing a more robust way of knowing how well these children are progressing we can help all those working with children in care support them to achieve their full potential, and be even more ambitious for what they can go on to achieve.”

Minister of State for Children and Families, Edward Timpson MP, said:

“As someone who grew up with over 90 fostered brothers and sisters, I’ve seen first-hand just how education coupled with a stable home environment can transform the lives and futures of some of our most vulnerable children. And these children are now doing better than ever at school, with results generally improving and absences down.

“But as a Government we’re not complacent about the unique challenges that children in care often face at school. That’s why we’ve put in place a comprehensive package of support - including the introduction of the Pupil Premium Plus and compulsory Virtual School Heads to champion their educational attainment. We’ve also changed the rules so foster children can remain at home until 21 and have recognised long-term fostering as a placement in its own right, providing young people with greater stability as they prepare for independence and adult life.”

The full paper can be found here

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