We Must Do Better

Author: TACT

Tags: Education

Date: 18th August 2016

Education for looked after children is still not good enough. That is the conclusion reached by TACT following the release of the DFE annual report on ‘Outcomes for children looked after by local authorities in England’ (31 March 2016).

It is now 12 years since local authorities were given a duty to promote the educational achievement of looked after children since the Children Act 2004. But new figures show that improvements are not happening quickly enough to make a positive impact on their life chances.

Yes, for primary school looked after children attainment is slightly increasing for maths and writing and is stable for reading. But compared to non-looked after children, levels of attainment are much lower. Last year only 63% of looked after children achieved level 2 or above for their writing,  compared to 88% of non-looked after children. Yes, at key stage 2 attainment for looked after children between the ages of 7 and 11 continues to improve especially in grammar, punctuation and spelling and there is improvement in the percentage of looked after children who achieved 5 or more A *C GCSEs including English and Maths.

But far fewer looked after children with special needs achieve level 4 or above in the headline measure of reading, writing and maths. This year 52% of looked after children achieved level 4 or above compared to 80% of non-looked after children.

And a worrying  61% of looked after children at key stage 2 have a special educational need identified, compared to around 19% of non-looked after children. Yet when we look at children with no special educational needs, attainment levels are more similar between looked after and non-looked after children. This suggests much more intensive and specialised support is required for children with special needs.

The rate of permanent exclusions for looked after children is around twice as high as the rate for all children.

The DFE report sets out new statistics on attainment at key stage 2 and key stage 4 for children adopted from care. Based on the available data, children adopted from care and those leaving care with a special guardianship order or child arrangements order achieve slightly better than looked after children at both key stage 2 and stage 4. However they have much lower attainment than non-looked after children. The outcomes in education for adopted children look more like those for children in care than for children not ‘looked after’.

Attainment at Key Stage 2 and Key Stage 4:


Higher education gives more cause for concern. The DFE says only six per cent of care leavers were higher education in England in the year ending March 2015 – the same proportion as in 2014.

TACT is working with our foster carers, adopters and children in care to get to the bottom of all these statistics. We are currently interviewing children and young people from across TACT to understand more about their experience of education, and we will also collect views from our foster carers so we can understand the relationship carers have with schools.

We will publish the results to try to show what the experience of education is really like for looked after children. The aim will be to improve services, outcomes and life chances for all children and young people who are in and leaving the care system.

We will use the information gathered in several ways:

  • To understand the issues facing young people and foster carers and how we might improve things
  • To help TACT plan and deliver training and services for foster carers
  • To influence government policy at a national and local level

The results will be published in September 2016.

Jasmine Ali
Senior Policy and Research Advisor